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Nirbhaya case: Delhi court refuses to issue fresh death warrants, date to execute convicts

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A Delhi court on Friday dismissed the plea moved by Tihar authorities seeking a fresh death warrant against the four death row convicts in 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case.

Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana while dismissing the plea said the plea is bereft of merits, death warrant cannot be issued on the surmises of conjectures. He took note of the Delhi High Court’s February 5 order permitting the convicts to exercise their legal remedies within one week.

Delhi’s Patiala House Court dismissed the said application for being premature. However, leave has been granted to the state to move an application at an appropriate stage.

“It is criminally sinful to execute the convicts when the law permits them to live. The High Court on February 5 has permitted the convicts, in the interest of justice, to exercise their legal remedies within one week from the same order,” the court said.

“I concur with counsel for convicts that death warrants cannot be executed merely on the basis of surmises and conjectures. The application is bereft of merits. The state is at liberty to move appropriate application as and when required,” the judge said.

Vrinda Grover, who has been appointed as amicus curiae in the case, informed the court that two petitions filed by the Union of India, concerning death penalty jurisprudence, are pending before the Supreme Court.

She submitted that the application is premature as the period of 7 days granted by the High Court is still pending. “High Court’s order was legally perfect, but they still moved the top court,” she argued.

She further informed the court that the Supreme Court has not issued notice in the plea moved by the Centre against High court’s dismissal, despite Solicitor General vehemently pushing for it.

The trial court had on January 31 stayed “till further orders” execution of the four convicts in the case — Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31), who are lodged in Tihar Jail.

On January 31, the trial court had postponed till further orders the hanging of the 2012 gangrape and murder case convicts, who are lodged in Tihar jail.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing of a plea filed by the Centre challenging the Delhi High Court’s dismissal of its appeal to separately execute the four death row convicts.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, asked the court to decide whether authorities be told to wait for all the convicts to exhaust their remedies, especially since Pawan has not filed anything since 2018 when his review was rejected. “The nation’s patience is being tested,” said Mehta.

However, the bench comprising Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan & AS Bopanna said that a convict cannot be compelled to exercise their legal remedies.

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