Eighteen months after the four adult convicts of the sensational December 16 gang rape case moved Supreme Court against their death sentence, their appeals are yet to come up for hearing.
Two days after the Delhi high court had upheld the trial court verdict awarding death penalty to the four convicts, the top court had on March 14, 2014 stayed their hanging. Until the SC gives its final verdict, the four cannot be hanged.
Within a month of the brutal incident, a fast-track court began the trial proceedings in the case on January 17, 2013. It took just eight months to give death sentences to all the accused.
Even the Delhi high court fast-tracked the convicts’ appeal and within six months it confirmed the capital punishment given to the convicts. But the case seems to have got stuck in SC. In accordance with an SC judgment that death appeals had to be heard by only three-judge benches, a three-judge bench headed by Justice AR Dave was constituted to hear these appeals.
Though the cases got listed twice, it could not be taken up for hearing. SC officials explained, on the condition of anonymity, the delay was ostensibly due to the fact that the three judges assigned the appeals were not able to come together to constitute the special bench.
“The three judges should be able to spare time. However, in the wake of vacancies it is not easy to break benches to make the three sit together,” the official added.
Similarly the case against the convicts’ advocates ML Sharma and AP Singh — for making shocking remarks against women in a documentary on the case — continues to languish in the top court.
Women lawyers have moved the court seeking a ban on their entry to the SC. Though the duo has apologised, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the lawyers have declined to accept it.
SCBA president Dushyant Dave said it was unfortunate for the top court to get entangled in procedures and not take up the appeals out of turn. An appeal against death admitted for a hearing usually takes three to four years before it is heard.
“But, this incident had moved the entire country. Quick disposal of such cases sends a powerful message to the society that the judicial system has also awaken with such shocking incidents. And I think judges should not be immune to the feelings of the people,” said Dushyant Dave.