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The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the death sentence of Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, the two remaining convicts in the Dec 16, 2012, Delhi gang-rape case, as it extended its March 15 order blocking execution of two other death row convicts - Mukesh and Pawan Gupta - in the same case.
"We have to pass the same order," said the bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice NV Ramana, referring to the March 15 order, as counsel for Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur urged the court to suspend their execution.
The court declined to pass an order on Vinay and Akshay's plea that in view of the amendment in the apex court rules, their plea should be heard by a three-judge bench.
They referred to a newspaper report quoting Chief Justice RM Lodha as saying that the president has given assent to the amended rules and from Aug 16, all appeals in death sentence cases would be heard by a three-judge bench.
However, the court declined to pass an order, saying that the amended rules are yet to be notified.
The court on March 15 decided to keep on hold execution of the death sentence of Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, who had challenged the March 13 Delhi high court order upholding their death sentence by a fast-track court.
The execution of their death sentence was suspended by an interim order of the bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh at a special sitting of the court.
In the April 28 hearing of the plea by Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, the apex court bench of Justice BS Chauhan and Justice J Chelameswar asked the Delhi government to place before it all the records, including those of the trial court along with their English translation, in the gang-rape case.
The court also directed the listing of the matter in the second week of July for final hearing.
On March 13, the high court bench of Justice Reva Khetrapal and Justice Pratibha Rani upheld the death sentence of Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay and Akshay.
"Society's abhorrence to atrocious crimes perpetrated upon innocent and helpless victims has resulted in the death penalty being retained on the statute book to remind such criminals that human life is very precious and one who dares to take the life of others must lose his own life," the high court had said in its order.
Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Ram Singh along with a juvenile were convicted of gang-rape and assault on a 23-year-old physiotherapist student inside a private bus. The woman victim and her male friend were thrown out of the bus after the crime to die by a roadside.
The victim died of grave intestinal injuries on Dec 29, 2012, at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
Of the two other convicts, Ram Singh committed suicide inside Delhi's Tihar jail, and the juvenile was sent to three years in an observation home in Delhi.