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Nirbhaya convicts ‘not entitled’ to more time: Centre to Delhi HC

New Delhi: The Centre on Sunday told the Delhi High Court that the four death row convicts in Nirbhaya case are “not entitled” to any more time, as it cited the 2019 gang rape and murder of a Hyderabad vet in which the four accused were killed by police in an alleged encounter and asserted that the credibility of the judiciary and its own power to execute death sentence are at stake.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre and Delhi government, which have sought setting aside of a trial court order staying the execution of convicts in 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape-murder case, said that there is a deliberate, calculated and well thought of design to “frustrate mandate of law” by the convicts who were “trying the patience of the nation”.

Justice Suresh Kait reserved the order on the joint plea by the Centre and Delhi government after a three-hour hearing, during which senior advocate Rebecca John, representing convict Mukesh Kumar, contended that since the four were sentenced to death by a common order, they have to be executed together and cannot be “singled out”.

“Let me concede I have delayed the process, I am a worst person, I have committed a horrible crime, which is unimaginable, still I am entitled to Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution,” John submitted.

During his arguments, Mehta contended that convict Pawan Gupta’s move of not filing a curative or a mercy petition is a deliberate, calculated inaction. He said there was a deliberate delay on the part of the convicts and a prompt reaction to their pleas by the judicial and executive system. The law officer said by the trial court’s interpretation of Rules, if convict Pawan Gupta chooses not to file mercy plea, then nobody could be hanged.

“There is a deliberate move of co-convicts to delay the process which can frustrate the mandate of the trial court’s judgment awarding them death sentence that was confirmed by the Delhi High Court and upheld by the Supreme Court,” he said.

Referring to the December 6, 2019, Hyderabad gang rape and murder case of a veterinarian in which the four accused were killed by the police in an alleged encounter, the Solicitor General said what happened there was shocking but people celebrated it. “It gave a very bad impression….The credibility of the institution (judiciary) and its own power to execute death sentence is at stake,” he said.

The Supreme Court had formed a three-member commission headed by a former apex court judge to inquire into the alleged encounter.

Police had claimed that all the four accused in the Hyderabad case were shot dead in “retaliatory” firing by the cops when two of the accused opened fire at them after snatching their weapons and tried to escape from the site where they had been taken for a reconstruction of events as part of the investigation.

Though human rights activists had questioned the police claim, a section of people had justified the killings.

The four Nirbhaya case convicts are playing with judicial machinery and trying the patience of the nation, Mehta said, adding that any delay in the execution of death penalty will have a de-humanising effect on the convicts.

While Mukesh and Vinay Sharma’s mercy pleas have been rejected by the President, Pawan has not yet filed it. Akshay Singh’s mercy plea was filed on Saturday and is pending.

Advocate A P Singh, who appeared for convicts Akshay Singh (31), Vinay Sharma (26) and Pawan gupta (25), opposed the Centre’s plea to set aside the stay on execution of death sentence.

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