A Delhi court on Monday deferred the execution of the death sentence of the four Nirbhaya gang rape case convicts indefinitely.
The four condemned men were supposed to be hanged to death on March 3 at 6 a.m.
Hours before what was to be their execution, Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana put on hold their execution when informed that one of the four, Pawan Gupta, has moved a clemency petition before the President on Monday.
The clemency petition was filed with the President shortly after a five-judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana dismissed Pawan's curative petition for lack of merits. The decision was taken by circulation by the judges in their chambers at 10.25 a.m. on Monday.
“We have gone through the curative petition and the relevant documents. In our opinion, no case is made out... The application for oral hearing is rejected. The application for stay of execution of death sentence is also rejected,” the short order on the curative petition said.
Even if the President rejects the mercy plea of Pawan before 6 a.m. on March 3, the law laid down by the Supreme Court in its Shatrughan Chauhan judgment of 2014 requires the convict to be given 14 days time to set his affairs straight and “prepare” for the execution.
Recently, the Centre had blamed the Chauhan judgment for being “convict-centric”. It urged the Supreme Court to revisit the 2014 verdict and make it victim and society centric.
Again, Pawan can legally challenge the rejection of the mercy plea in the Supreme Court. The fate of the other three convicts would also depend on how long his challenges would continue to hold up.
The government has appealed to the Supreme Court for permission to separately execute convicts who have exhausted their legal and administrative remedies without waiting for their co-convicts in the same case to finish theirs in due time. This appeal is pending in the court.
Separately, a Bench of Justices R. Banumathi and A.S. Bopanna dismissed a PIL petition filed by former High Court judge Michael Saldanha for directions to the government and the jail authorities to give the Nirbhaya convicts’ organs for medical research.
“To execute a person is the saddest part for the family . You [petitioner] want their body to cut into pieces... Have a humane approach to these things... Organ donation has to be voluntary,” Justice Banumathi addressed the petitioner.
Akshay, Mukesh, Pawan and Vinay brutally gang-raped the 23-year-old para-medical student in a moving bus on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012. She died of her injuries a few days later.
An accused, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail. A juvenile, who was among the accused, was convicted by a juvenile justice board. He was released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term.