Dec 16 gang-rape: Court postpones indefinitely the hanging of all 4 convicts
New Delhi: A Delhi court Friday postponed the hanging of the four convicts of the December 16 gang-rape case until further orders stating that the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018, command that if an appeal and application is made by one convict, then the execution sentence of all co-convicts will be postponed as well.
“...I am of the considered opinion that the execution warrant issued by this court vide order dated January 17 deserves to be postponed till further orders,” additional sessions judge Dharmendra Rana said.
The court also said that according to the Delhi Prison Rules (DPR), 2018, the execution sentence of all convicts of the case will be postponed pending receipt of orders from the President of India.
The court was hearing a plea filed by one of the convicts, Vinay Sharma, who had sought that the death warrant issued by the court on January 17, for the second time, be stayed in the wake of the mercy petition pending before the President.
“Therefore, I have no hesitation in observing that the execution of warrant qua accused Vinay ought to be postponed (sic),” the judge said in his 10-page order.
The court also postponed the execution of the other convicts— Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh.
Just as the court pronounced the order, the victim’s mother Asha Devi broke down and said either the convicts should be hanged or the government should declare that there are flaws in the law, which were causing a delay in the execution of the convicts.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal later tweeted, “I am saddened that the convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape case are using legal tactics to delay the hanging. They should be hanged immediately. There is a strict need to bring changes in the existing laws, so that the hanging in rape cases can be conducted within six months.”
While postponing the matter without specifying any date, the judge observed, “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 civilised society. The courts of this country cannot afford to adversely discriminate any convict, including death row convict, in pursuit of his legal remedies, by turning a Nelson’s eye towards him (sic).”
In a day -long hearing at the Patiala House court complex in the national capital, arguments were advanced by the counsels for all parties concerned.
Appearing for the state, additional public prosecutor Irfan Ahmed opposed Vinay’s application seeking a stay and contended that it is not “legally maintainable” according to the DPR, 2018. He contended that since Vinay’s mercy petition is pending before the President, his execution could be stayed pending the decision.
However, the other three convicts could be hanged since none of their applications or petitions was pending before any court of law.
Countering these submissions, advocate AP Singh, counsel for the three convicts, said a review petition of Pawan’s juvenility claim is pending before the Supreme Court. He also submitted that another appeal by the convicts in a connected robbery case is pending before the Delhi high court. He also said Akshay wants to move a mercy petition after his curative petition was dismissed Thursday.
“These convicts are not terrorists. I would request you to kindly postpone the matter sine dine,” Singh said.
Appearing for Mukesh, his counsel Vrinda Grover told the court that all accused were convicted by a common judgment and awarded a common sentence. She said her client cannot be hanged as the execution of one cannot be separated from the others.
Advocates Jitendra Kumar Jha and Seema Kushwaha, counsel for the victim’s parents, contended that the convicts were using delaying tactics.
However, the court said it cannot discriminate between convicts and postponed the matter till further orders.
The trial court, on January 17, had issued black warrants for all four convicts and decreed that they were to be hanged at Tihar jail at 6am on February 1.
The four were sentenced to death by a fast-track court within a year of the gruesome crime that had brought thousands of people to the streets in demand of better safety for women and stricter laws. The protests eventually led to a major overhaul of all laws surrounding sexual assault.
The victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, was gang-raped and assaulted on the night of December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of injuries a fortnight later at a Singapore hospital.
Meanwhile, the hangman Sindhi Ram, who goes by the moniker Pawan Jallad, who hails from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, had reported at Tihar on Thursday to carry out the execution. He also conducted a dummy hanging on Thursday. But a Tihar jail spokesperson said he will now be sent back on Saturday.