Nirbhaya convicts hanging | Why midnight hearings in death penalty cases?

A file photo used for representational purpose only.

A file photo used for representational purpose only.   | Photo Credit:

SC says it stems from condemned man’s hope his case will rise like the Phoenix

The Nirbhaya case was the third death penalty case for which the Supreme Court opened its doors for a ‘midnight hearing’ in recent times. The previous two occasions were in the Nithari killings and Yakub Memon cases.

Other such cases

In the Memon case, the Supreme Court had mentioned the “unending character” of such death penalty cases which warrant midnight hearings. The court wondered whether it stems from the condemned man’s hope that makes him come back to the apex court at midnight and fight till the last hours of his life, hoping his case would “rise like the Phoenix” and even “possibly harbouring the idea that it has the potentiality to urge for a second lease of life”.

The fourth case of midnight hearing in the Supreme Court, in May 2018, was not connected to death penalty, but concerned government formation in Karnataka. The Congress party had moved the apex court on the eve of BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in ceremony as the Chief Minister.

Woman judge

The Nirbhaya case also marked the first time a woman judge, Justice R. Banumathi, led the apex court Bench which held the early morning hearing on March 20. Justice Banumathi’s one-line dismissal order on a plea by convict, Pawan Gupta, became the final act of justice administration in the Nirbhaya case before all the four condemned men made their final walk to the gallows on Friday. The previous morning (March 19) had seen the Justice Banumathi Bench dismiss, back to back, separate petitions filed by two of the convicts – Akshay and Mukesh.

Watch | All about death penalties in India

Pawan’s lawyers had turned up at the Supreme Court at around 3 a.m. after their hectic arguments in the Delhi High Court failed.

Five years ago, a similar series of events had ensued in July 2015 in the Supreme Court, hours before the execution of Memon in connection with the Bombay Blast case.

After a whole day of hearing the case and deciding against giving Memon any relief, the three-judge Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra was summoned in the early hours when the condemned man knocked on the Supreme Court doors at 3 a.m, on July 30, 2015, merely hours before he was to be hanged at 7 a.m.

An exhausted Bench, which assembled in Court Four, had heard arguments made by Memon’s lawyers and countered by the then Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohatgi, for over an hour. The Bench finally denied the plea made by Memon to allow him a 14-day reprieve to make his peace.

However, in 2014, the Supreme Court, in another midnight hearing, gave Surinder Koli some respite in the Nithari killings case. A plea was filed in the apex court just two hours before he was to be hanged in Meerut. The apex court had intervened and postponed his execution.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:13:06 AM |

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