A Delhi court on Thursday asked the four Nirbhaya case death-row convicts to respond by tomorrow on an application filed by the Tihar jail authorities for fixing fresh date and time for their execution.
The response of the condemned prisoners — Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Thakur (31) – was sought by Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana.
The Centre’s plea, filed through Special Public Prosecutor Irfan Ahmed, said fresh black warrant be issued in the “interest of justice”.
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 agreed to hear tomorrow the Centre’s appeal challenging the Delhi High Court order on Wednesday dismissing its plea against stay on the execution by the trial court.
Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a three-judge bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari.
While the curative petitions and the mercy petitions of Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur have been turned down, Pawan Gupta is yet to move a curative petition in the apex court or file a mercy plea before the President.
The Centre’s appeal was filed shortly after the high court had directed the convicts, waiting on death row, to file any application they want within a week after which authorities should act.
In his order, Justice Suresh Kait of Delhi High Court had declined to set aside the trial court’s stay on the execution of the death warrant, reiterating that under the law, co-convicts cannot be executed on separate dates.
In effect, the high court set a week’s timeframe for the condemned prisoners to exhaust all their legal remedies.
Justice Kait said since their fate has been decided by one order, it must be executed with regard to all convicts together.
The judge also noted that the convicts have inordinately delayed filing their applications after they were sentenced to death, with Akshay moving his review plea after more than 900 days.
On February 2, the court had reserved its order at a special hearing after both the parties concluded their arguments on the revision application of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the city government to set aside the stay order.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, had submitted that the convicts were taking the process of law for a “joyride” and adopting tactics to delay the execution of the sentence.
He had said the convicts of a heinous crime were trying the patience of the country.
In his order postponing the hanging, judge Rana had said, “Without commenting upon the dilatory tactics adopted by the convicts, suffice it would be to state that seeking redressal of one’s grievances through procedure established by law is the hallmark of any civilized society.”
On January 22, a Delhi sessions court had issued a warrant for the hanging of the convicts on February 1.
Vrinda Grover, who was appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in the case, had told the high court that she has ensured that all the legal remedies available to the convicts are availed without any undue wastage of court’s time.
The lawyer had said that the execution of all the convicts have to be postponed even if the mercy petition of a single convict is pending.
“The sentence is a common sentence, the death warrant is a common warrant. Therefore, these convicts can’t be executed separately as there can’t be a severance of the sentence,” Grover had submitted.
“Death penalty is an irreversible process. It would be a travesty of justice if the convicts are segregated in terms of sentence for the very same offence,” she had contended.
Seema Kushwaha, representing the victim paramedic student’s family, had questioned the locus standi of Grover.