After Pawan’s curative plea was rejected by the apex court, the sessions court first refused to stay the hanging of the four convicts on Tuesday.
New Delhi: The four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case will not be hanged as scheduled on Tuesday. On Monday, soon after one of the four convicts informed a Delhi court that he has moved a mercy petition before President Ramnath Kovind, additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana deferred the execution of all the convicts till further orders. This is the third time that the hanging of the four convicts has been deferred.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court rejected the curative petition of Pawan Gupta, one of the convicts in the case that had shocked the conscience of the nation in December 2012.
The curative petition is the last legal recourse for death row convicts. Once curative petition is rejected, the convicts can file a mercy plea before the President. And if the mercy petition is rejected by the President, the convict can challenge it before the apex court.
Except Pawan (25), all other convicts — Akshay Thakur (31), Vinay Sharma (26) and Mukesh Singh (32) — have already exhausted all their legal options. Their mercy petitions were rejected within 72 hours after they approached the President. Even their curative petitions and appeals challenging the rejection of their mercy pleas by the President were quickly disposed off by the apex court.
After Pawan’s curative plea was rejected by the apex court, the sessions court first refused to stay the hanging of the four convicts on Tuesday. It was only after the sessions judge was informed that Pawan had filed his mercy petition before the President that the hanging of the convicts was deferred till further orders.
Sessions Judge Rana said death sentence cannot be executed pending disposal of mercy petition of Pawan. He said: “Despite stiff resistance from the victim’s side, I am of the opinion that any condemned convict must not meet his Creator with a grievance in his bosom that the courts of the country have not acted fairly in granting him an opportunity to exhaust his legal remedies.”
The sessions judge added, “As a cumulative effect of the discussion, I am of the opinion that the death sentence cannot be executed pending the disposal of the mercy petition of the convict. It is hereby directed that the execution of death warrants against all the convicts, scheduled for March 3 at 6 AM, is deferred till further orders.”
Outside the Patiala House courtroom, Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi said, “My daughter was savagely raped and thrown on the streets. Her intestines were ripped out. And all these courts are sitting and watching a tamasha… No matter what the convicts do. The whole world is watching how justice is being delayed in India.”
Asha Devi’s lawyer Seema Kushwaha said, “Can’t the court understand the manipulation of law? Our system is completely rotten. It takes years to get justice. We have to fix it together.”
On December 16, 2012, the medical student, who came to be known as “Nirbhaya (Fearless)”, was on her way back from a movie with a friend when she was lured into a bus. She was assaulted, raped and tortured so brutally that she died days later, triggering an unprecedented outpouring of public anger over.
Last month, the Central government approached the Supreme Court for a change in laws that it said were skewed in favour of criminals. As the convicts filed petition after petition, timing them carefully to buy some reprieve, Pawan apparently waited till the end to make his move.
The hanging of the four convicts has been deferred twice before, on January 22 and February 1. On February 5, the Delhi high court ordered that all four would have a week to exhaust all their legal remedies, including mercy petitions to the President, and said they cannot be hanged separately.
On Monday, Judge Rana, while reserving judgment on Pawan’s fresh plea to stay the execution of death warrant for Tuesday, rapped the convict’s lawyer for acting so late in filing the curative and mercy pleas. In the post-lunch hearing, the court pulled up the defence lawyer saying, “You are playing with fire, you should be cautious”, and added, “One wrong move by anybody, and you know the consequences”.
Delhi’s Tihar jail authorities, during the hearing, said the ball is in the government’s court after filing of the mercy petition, and the judge has no role for now. They said the President will seek a status report from the jail on Pawan’s mercy plea and, when that happens, it will suo motu stay the execution.