The Delhi High Court Wednesday said all the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case have to be executed together, not separately, and dismissed the Centre’s plea against the trial court’s order staying the execution of their death sentence.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait, while reading out the operative portion of the decision, directed the convicts to exhaust within seven days all the remedies available to them after which the authorities should act as per law.
The High Court also faulted the authorities concerned for not taking steps for issuance of death warrants after rejection of appeals of the convicts by the Supreme Court in 2017.
The victim’s parents and Delhi government had sought warrants for execution of death sentence to the four convicts in February 2019 and on December 18, 2019, respectively.
“I have no hesitation in saying that after dismissal of the SLP (Special Leave Petition) by the Supreme Court in May 2017, nobody took steps for issuance of death warrants for their execution,” the judge said. “All authorities were sleeping and waiting for convict Akshay to file review petition on December 9, 2019 challenging the Supreme Court’s verdict upholding his death penalty. His review plea was dismissed by the apex court on December 18, 2019,” the court said. The detailed judgment is still awaited.
The court said it cannot be disputed that the four convicts were found guilty of “a horrible, dreadful, cruel, abominable, ghastly, gruesome and heinous offence of rape coupled with a bone-chilling murder of a
young woman, which shook the conscience of the entire country.”
The court also observed, “It cannot be disputed that the convicts have frustrated the process by using delaying tactics.”
The Centre and the Delhi government had challenged the trial court’s January 31 order staying “till further orders” the execution of all 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.
The government had contended that the convicts are not to be hanged separately only till the stage of their SLP before the Supreme Court and thereafter, separate hanging can be done.
The judge said, however, that since up to the Supreme Court, their fate has been decided by a common order, “I am of the considered opinion that death warrants of all the convicts be executed together and not separately.”
Regarding the preliminary objection raised by the counsel for Mukesh over maintainability of the Centre’s plea, the High Court said the Centre was competent to file the present petition as it was Delhi Police which had been probing the case.
The High Court said there was no ground to set aside the trial court’s order staying the execution of the convicts “till further orders”. It also said Mukesh could not be segregated only because he has been sincerely following his remedies.
The parents of the victim had urged the court to expeditiously decide the Centre’s plea and were assured by the judge that the order would be passed at the earliest.
The trial court had on January 7 issued black warrants for the execution of all the four convicts in Tihar jail at 7 am on January 22. However, they could not be hanged due to pendency of mercy petition of one of them. On January 17, the trial court fixed February 1, 6 am as the hanging date and time.
On January 31, the trial court again stayed the execution as the counsel for three convicts – Pawan, Vinay and Akshay – urged it to adjourn the matter “sine die” saying their legal remedies were yet to be exhausted.