Nirbhaya convicts hanging scheduled on Feb 1 delayed

Delhi court delays Nirbhaya convicts execution scheduled on Feb 1 till further notice

A day before the re-scheduled date of hanging, a Delhi court on Friday deferred the execution of four convicts in the 2012 gang rape and murder case of Nirbhaya, till further orders. It noted that the decision on mercy plea by one of them was awaited, and the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 provided that co-convicts can't be executed in view of pendency of any application.

The court discarded the contentions that the convicts were resorting to delaying tactics as abuse of the process of law and sullying the cause of justice, in the case where the 23-year-old victim, referred to as Nirbhaya, was sexually assaulted in the moving bus in Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012.

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“Seeking redressal of one's grievances through the procedure established by law is hallmark of any civilised society. The courts of this country cannot afford to adversely discriminate any convict, including death row convict in pursuit of his legal remedies by turning a Nelson's eye towards him,” Additional Sessions Judge Dharmesh Rana said, in an order on convicts' plea to postpone their execution sine die.

Of the four, curative petitions by Vinay, Mukesh and Akshay had been dismissed by the Supreme Court. So far, only Mukesh and Vinay had filed mercy plea. The President had rejected such a plea by Mukesh and decision on mercy petition by Vinay was awaited. The remaining two Pawan and Akshay have yet to filed mercy petitions. Vinay had preferred not to file curative petition.

This is the second time when the death warrants issued for execution of the four convicts were deferred. On January 7, the black warrant was issued for January 22. Subsequently, it was deferred to February 1.

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Advocate A P Singh, representing Pawan, Akshay and Vinay sought postponing the warrant in order to allow them to exhaust their legal remedies. He said mercy petition by Vinay was still pending.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, acting as amicus curiae for convict Mukesh, contended since all the convicts were held guilty of the same offence and were convicted by a common judgement, their fate cannot be segregated and even the convict whose mercy plea was rejected cannot be separately dealt in isolation.

In support of her contention, she relied upon Rule 854 of the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018, contending the execution of sentence even with regard to Mukesh has to be postponed. She said if mercy plea by other convicts were favourably considered by the President, the change in circumstances would entitled him to file a fresh mercy plea.

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The prosecution, for its part, vehemently opposed it saying there was no legal remedy available for Mukesh. He, however, conceded since mercy plea by Vinay was pending, his execution could be postponed. Granting relief to other convicts would tantamount to abuse of the process of law and would lead to travesty of justice.

On behalf of victims, it was contended even after attaining finality, the judgement remained unexecuted as the convicts were resorting to all kinds of tactics to delay the proceedings and sully the cause of justice. They said, “Unfortunately, due to systemic delays, they were still waiting for the justice”.

In a related development, the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition filed by Pawan against the judgement, rejecting his claim that he was a juvenile at the time of incident in 2012.