4 Nirbhaya convicts set to hang now on March 3

Nirbhaya's mother Asha Devi expressed the hope that the four convicts would finally be hanged on March 3.

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Monday ordered that the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape-murder case be hanged at 6 am on March 3 after it issued fresh death warrants, saying deferring the execution further would be “sacrilegious” to the rights of the victim for expeditious justice.

The court directed that the four convicts — Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31) — be hanged by the neck at 6 am on March 3 until they are dead. It is for the third time that the death warrants were issued by the court against them. “It is hereby directed that the death warrants, as issued by this court vide order dated January 7, 2020 in respect of the condemned convicts namely Mukesh, Pawan, Akshay and Vinay shall now be carried into effect by causing the said convicts to be hanged by the neck until they are dead on March 3 at 6 am,” said additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana.

The judge noted the death warrants were earlier issued on January 7 and the execution was later deferred twice — on January 17 and January 31. “Now deferring it any further would be sacrilegious to the rights of the victim for expeditious justice,” he said.

Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi expressed the hope that the four convicts would finally be hanged on March 3. She said: “We have struggled so much. But we have complete faith in the judiciary. Our real victory would be when the convicts are actually hanged.”

Nirbhaya’s father said the family has been receiving congratulatory messages stating their seven-year-old struggle for justice will finally come to an end. He said the court order goes to show that sooner or later criminals are brought to justice.

Nirbhaya’s family lawyer Seema Kushwaha, however, claimed that defence lawyer A.P. Singh was misleading people and the convicts’ families into thinking he will be able to save the convicts.

The two death warrants issued earlier could not be executed as the convicts took it in turns to use every legal option available to them. The first date of execution, January 22, was postponed to February 1 by a January 17 court order. Then the trial court, on January 31, stayed “till further orders” the execution of the four as they had not exhausted all their legal remedies.

The fresh death warrant was issued after Delhi’s Tihar jail authorities informed the trial court that three of the four convicts had exhausted all legal options and none of them have any correspondence pending at the moment. Pawan is the only convict who has not filed a curative petition — the last legal remedy available to a person which is decided in-chamber — or mercy plea before the President.

The trial court said: “There is only two possible inferences for such indolence: 1) either convict Pawan is satisfied with the verdict of the Supreme Court; or 2) he is simply interested in delaying court proceedings. In either case, he cannot claim that the execution of the sentence needs to be delayed further.”

The trial court noted that the Delhi high court had given “one more opportunity” to Pawan, “unambiguously clarifying to exercise his rights within a week, failing which requisite action shall be initiated without any further delay”. The court said Pawan cannot be allowed to defeat the ends of justice by simply opting to remain indolent.

All four convicts have already exhausted the one week allowed by the high court to exercise all their legal options and will need to go to the Supreme Court to get an extension. Akshay’s counsel has now informed the court that he has prepared a fresh mercy petition to be moved before the President.

One of the four convicts, Vinay, has started hungerstrike at Tihar Jail after his petition challenging President Ram Nath Kovind’s rejection of his mercy plea was turned down by the Supreme Court last week. The convict had claimed the President had not factored in his mental illness after torture in jail. The Centre had produced a medical report dated February 12, which showed he was mentally sound. The trial court directed the Tihar jail superintendent to take appropriate care of Vinay.

The four convicts will be facing the noose for raping and savagely assaulting the physiotherapy intern on the night of December 16, 2012 in a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital. Six people — including the four convicts, Ram Singh and a juvenile — were named as accused. The trial of the five adults began in a special fast-track court in March 2013. Ram Singh, the prime accused, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in Tihar Jail days after the trial began. The juvenile, who was said to be the most brutal of the attackers, was put in a correctional home for three years. He was released in 2015 and sent to an undisclosed location amid concerns over a threat to his life. When released, he was 20 years old.

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