Nirbhaya case: Supreme Court to hear Centre’s appeal on February 7

Nirbhaya case victim's mother along with lawyers in New Delhi, on January 7, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to urgently list an appeal filed by the Central government challenging the Delhi High Court’s rejection of its plea to separately execute the death sentence of the Nirbhaya gang rape convicts.

A Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana, on an urgent mentioning by the government, said the special leave petition would be listed before an appropriate Bench on February 7 for hearing.

The Centre had challenged a January 31, 2020 decision of the Sessions Court to postpone the issuance of fresh death warrants against the four Nirbhaya convicts, especially Mukesh Singh, whose mercy petition had been declined by the President on January 17. It argued in the apex court that, under the Delhi Prison Rules of 2018, the pendency of legal remedies or mercy petitions of other co-convicts would have no bearing on the fate of a convict whose plea for mercy has already been rejected.

The government contended that the 2018 Rules do not prohibit the execution of the death sentence of co-convicts, one by one, on the rejection of their respective mercy petitions. It said that deferring the execution of the death sentence of all the four convicts, specifically when Mukesh’s mercy plea had been dismissed by the President, had led to “gross miscarriage of justice” to the victim’s family as well as society as a whole. The convicts were taking the judicial process for a ride.

The High Court judgment, however, held that the 2018 Rules observe that the pendency of any application filed by one convict would necessarily require the postponement of the death sentence of all his co-convicts, even those whose mercy plea had been rejected.

The court said there could not be a situation whereby one convict “swings” and the others’ lives are later spared by the President. Commutation of the death penalty of a fellow convict was a ground for filing fresh mercy petition after all, it reasoned. The convicts have to be executed together and not separately, it held.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 2:44:47 AM |

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