The Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court.

Centre to SC: Frame law to plug loopholes in executing death sentence

Court dismisses Tihar's plea seeking fresh warrant for execution

Agency Report | New Delhi | 7 February, 2020 | 11:30 PM

The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urges the Supreme Court to lay down a law in the execution of death sentence, as the convicts in the Nirbhaya case were making a mockery of the process.

The Supreme Court posted the Centre’s plea to February 11 when the one-week time given by the Delhi High Court to the convicts to exhaust legal remedies will expire.

A bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and A.S. Bopanna held a brief hearing on the Centre’s plea challenging the Delhi High Court order dismissing its petition which had challenged the Patiala House Court order staying execution of the four convicts.

The High Court also ruled that all the convicts should be hanged together and not separately. The Centre has challenged this too. Mehta said the bench would have to lay down the law whether the convicts in a case can be hanged separately or not.

The bench did not heed to Mehta’s request to issue notice to the convicts. The Centre reiterated if notices were not issued, then it would further delay the matter. Instead, the bench replied that during the next hearing on the matter, it may consider Centre’s contention.

“Ultimately, this court will have to lay down a law. Nation’s patience is being tested. We succeeded partly in High Court but it was not enough. Although, the High Court ruled that the mercy plea is not a judicial application, but it refused to allow separate execution of the convicts”, contended Mehta before the apex court.

The Centre is seeking to execute those convicts in the Nirbhaya case who have exhausted all their legal and constitutional remedies. Out of the four convicts, three have exhausted all legal remedies.

Only one convict is left to file a mercy petition before the President and the Centre says that he is deliberately delaying it.

Mehta told the bench Mukesh Kumar Singh, one of the four convicts, has exhausted all his legal remedies. Also, the President has already rejected the mercy pleas of Akshya Kumar and Vinay Kumar Sharma, but the fourth convict Pawan Gupta is yet to file a curative petition in the top court, and the mercy plea before the President.

Mehta told the bench it is apparent that Pawan has chosen not to file a curative or a mercy petition. “Should the authorities wait endlessly,” Mehta argued. The court replied: “Nobody can be compelled to take remedy challenging the death sentence if one chooses not to.”

Mehta vehemently argued there is probability the convict may not exhaust the legal remedies at disposal, and as a consequence, the others, citing delay in execution, may move the top court seeking commutation of the death sentence.

The bench replied to Mehta, “The High Court has given them a week’s time. This is amply to protect you.”

Mehta reiterated issuing notice to the accused. The court replied, “Let them come to this court on Monday and let them say what they want.”

Meanwhile, a Delhi court dismissed a petition filed by Tihar jail authorities seeking issuance of fresh death warrants against the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, observing that it was “bereft of merit”.

“The applications are bereft of merit and are dismissed. The state is permitted to file applications as and when required. The matter is disposed of for being premature,” Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana observed.

The judge further said that it was “criminally sinful to condemn the convicts when the law permits them to live”.

“Admittedly the Delhi High Court has permitted the convicts to exercise their legal remedies within one week of the said order. I concur with the learned Amicus of Mukesh that death warrants cannot be executed on the basis of conjectures,” Rana said.

During the course of proceedings on Friday, victim’s counsel Jitendra Kumar Jha requested the court to issue fresh death warrants against the convicts, claiming that none of their petitions is pending before the court of law or any other constitutional authority.

“The convicts are resting to tactics to unnecessarily delay the hanging and earn brownie points,” said another counsel representing the victim’s family.

Vrinda Grover, who represented convict Mukesh, vehemently opposed the contentions and said that the application deserved to be dismissed.

The jail authorities had moved the Patiala House Court on Thursday, a day after President Ram Nath Kovind dismissed the mercy petition of one of the convicts, Akshay.

Besides Akshay, two other convicts, namely Mukesh and Vinay, have exhausted their legal remedies.

The fourth convict, Pawan, has not yet availed the remedy of curative and mercy petitions, which will be the last judicial and constitutional resort for him, respectively.

The case pertains to the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in the national capital in December 2012.

The execution of the four convicts, originally scheduled for January 22, was postponed to February 1. But it was deferred again on January 31 after Mukesh filed an application before a Delhi court contending that other convicts are yet to avail the legal remedies and they cannot be hanged separately. (IANS)