The much awaited judgment of the hanging of the four convicts in 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder which was scheduled today on 3 March has been deferred for the third time time in six weeks by a court in yet another twist in the case marked by apparent delaying tactics by the condemned prisoners.
The decision has been taken in response to the fresh mercy plea, lodged by one of the accuser Pawan Gupta before the President. Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana while speaking to press on Monday said, “the hanging cannot be carried out pending disposal of Pawan Gupta’s mercy plea before the President”. Expressing his distress he rued, “observing any condemned convict must not meet his “Creator” with grievance against courts for not acting fairly on the opportunity to exhaust legal remedies”.
The hanging of the four accused men, Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26), Akshay Kumar Singh (31) and Pawan, who are lodged in Tihar jail, was fixed for today on March 3 in Tihar jail. Before Pawan, the other three had in the previous weeks moved curative petitions and mercy pleas which were all dismissed.
The hanging which was previously scheduled first in January was first postponed by the court to February 1. But on January 31, the court indefinitely postponed the hanging. On February 17, the court again issued fresh date for execution of death warrants for March 3 at 6 am.
The court in its orders observed that the four convicts cannot be hanged since a mercy plea of one or the other convict was pending, before president. Pawan’s lawyer, AP Singh said, “ He has filed a mercy plea and execution ought to be stayed”.
Patiala House Court judge Dharmendra Rana, on Monday rapped the convict’s lawyer for acting so late in filling the curative and mercy pleas. He noted that Gupta had missed the seventh day deadline that was sent by the High Court last month for the convicts to avail their legal remedies.
“You are playing with fire, you should be cautious,” he told Gupta’s Lawyer. Mr. AP Singh “ One wrong move by anybody and you know the consequences” the judge added.
Tihar 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”.
Earlier on Monday, the supreme court had dismissed Gupta’s curative petition seeking stay on execution of death sentence which was scheduled today on Tuesday.
“The application for oral hearing is rejected. The application for stay of execution of death sentence is also rejected. The curative petition is dismissed,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Arun Mishra, R F Nariman, R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan.).
In his curative plea, Pawan had sought commutation of his death penalty to life imprisonment and a stay on the execution of black warrant issued by the trail court for the hanging.
The case has witnessed a series of twists and turns right after a Delhi court on September 13, 2013 awarded the death sentence to the four convicts, less than one year after the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known as ‘Nirbhaya’ (fearless), was gang-raped and savagely assaulted 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.
After the judgement, there has been a series of Review petitions and curative petitions being filed in a staggered manner in the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order on March 13, 2014 confirming the death sentence. The last option of mercy petition before the President to escape the gallows was exercised by the convicts one by one.
Ruing on the justice being delayed to execute the convicts, Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi told reporters”This shows the failure of our system. The whole world is watching how justice is being delayed in India.” However,Asha Devi said she “loses hope every day” but the convicts will be hanged no matter what they do. I lose hope every day but I stand tall everyday. They would have to be hanged. There could not have been a worse case than Nirbhaya but still I am struggling to get justice. The courts are sitting and watching the drama.”
(With inputs from PTI)