SC to hear Nirbhaya convict's plea on mercy rejection

SC to hear Nirbhaya convict's review petition on mercy plea rejection

Supreme Court of India. (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would give top priority to a plea filed by one of the four Nirbhaya case convicts, Mukesh Kumar Singh, against the rejection of his mercy petition by the President.

Counsel for Mukesh asked a bench presided over by Chief Justice S A Bobde to list urgently his plea seeking judicial review of the decision by the President.

The bench told the counsel to approach the officer concerned in the Registry for the purpose. "If somebody is going to be executed on February 1, it is a top priority," the bench said.

On Saturday, he moved the Supreme Court, in a last-ditch attempt before the re-scheduled date of the execution on February 1.

In a writ petition, he challenged the validity of the order passed by the President rejecting his mercy plea, filed under Article 72 of the Constitution dealing with the power to grant pardon, and to suspend, remit or commute a sentence.

The case of gang rape and murder of 23-year-old paramedic student in a moving bus here on December 15-16, 2012, had triggered massive outrage, forcing the government to bring the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013, enhancing punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault, among others.

The top court had already dismissed review petitions of all convicts and curative petitions in cases of two convicts against the judgement, upholding death penalty awarded to them.

On January 17, President Ram Nath Kovind had rejected the mercy plea by Mukesh, soon after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) forwarded him the petition. The MHA on the same day had recommended for rejecting it.

Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal too had recommended rejection of his mercy plea.

The petition on behalf of Mukesh was filed through advocate Vrinda Grover.

Dealing with a separate case, the top court had recently said the finality of the death penalty cases was extremely important and a condemned prisoner should not remain under the impression that it was open-ended and can be questioned all the time. The Centre, for its part, also sought a re-look on the 2014 judgement in Shatrughan Chauhan case, for laying fresh down guidelines in death penalty cases, in order to redress grievances of the victims and their families, fixing a deadline for execution, filing of mercy and curative petitions.

A Delhi court had on January 17 issued fresh death warrants against the four convicts, Mukesh (32) Vinay Sharma (26), Akshay Kumar Singh (31) and Pawan Gupta (25), fixing February 1 at 6 am as the date and time of their hanging. The court had earlier on January 7 directed for their hanging on January 22 at 7 am in Tihar jail. However, it could not happen due to the filing of mercy petition by Mukesh.

On Saturday, a plea was moved before a Delhi court for directions to the jail authorities, to furnish certain documents to the counsel for filing the mercy petition for Vinay and curative petitions for Akshay and Pawan. The court, however, noted that the jail authorities had already complied with the request made by the convicts by supplying the documents whatever was lying with them.