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December 2012 gang rape case: Court issues fresh death warrant after President rejects mercy petition of Mukesh Singh

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Richa Banka
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2020 10:05 PM IST

A Delhi court on Friday issued a fresh death warrant against the four convicts in the December 16, 2010 gang-rape and murder case after it was informed that the mercy petition of one of the convicts — Mukesh Singh — has been rejected by President Ram Nath Kovind.

“I am issuing a fresh death warrant, for February 1 at 6am,” said additional sessions judge Satish Kumar Arora. The court was hearing a plea filed by Mukesh on Tuesday seeking postponement of the hanging and keeping the death warrant in abeyance till the mercy petition was decided upon.

Rejecting the mercy petition of the convict, the Ministry of Home Affairs said, “…..the President of India, in exercise of the powers under Article 72 of the Constitution of India, has REJECTED the mercy petition.”

This is the second mercy petition rejected by President Kovind. The first mercy petition rejected by him was that of Jagat Rai in April 2018, who was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in September 2013. Though the President had confirmed the sentence and rejected the convict’s petition, Rai is yet to be hanged. Rai, along with his associates, was convicted of killing five children and a woman on January 1, 2006 at Rampur Shyamchand village in Vaishali district of Bihar.

Reacting to the order, Asha Devi, the mother of the 23-year-old paramedical student, who was gang-raped and fatally attacked in 2012 by the convicts, said she and her family had finally got some closure after a long wait of seven years when the court had pronounced the date of hanging as January 22, 2020. However, on Friday when the date was moved further, she said she felt “betrayed”. “We are getting date after date. Do only convicts have rights? What about us, the victims? I am not at all satisfied; I am waiting only for these four to be hanged,” Devi said Friday.

On Thursday, the court had asked Tihar jail authorities to file a status report with regard to the scheduled execution.

On Friday, appearing for the jail authorities, public prosecutor Irfan Ahmed told the court that the President of India has rejected the mercy petition for Mukesh. He sought that a fresh death warrant be issued against all convicts.

During the hearing, Ahmed said Mukesh’s plea now becomes infructuous as the President has rejected it. To this, the court asked whether the convict has been informed of the same. Appearing for Mukesh, his counsel, advocate Vrinda Grover told the court that her client does not know about the rejection of the mercy petition. She claimed her junior had gone for a legal interview with Mukesh to Tihar jail. However, jail authorities denied him entry and he had been standing outside the prison complex since 1.30pm, she added. The court asked the public prosecutor to look into the matter and adjourned the hearing, asking jail authorities to produce the formal order of rejection of the mercy petition.

An hour later, when the hearing resumed, the public prosecutor informed the court that Mukesh has been informed about the rejection of the petition. He said a fresh death warrant can be issued now.

At this stage, advocate AP Singh, appearing for two of the convicts, said he has filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the apex court, challenging the order of the Delhi High Court dismissing a plea to decide on the juvenility of one of the convicts — Pawan Kumar Gupta. He said that another criminal appeal filed by three of the convicts – Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta – has been pending in the Delhi High Court. However, the court said that such applications at this stage do not make a difference.

Later, reacting to the order, advocate Singh said, “This is complete miscarriage of justice. One of my petitions is pending in the Supreme Court and another plea challenging the judgment of the trial court in a robbery case emanating out of the same case is pending adjudication in the Delhi High Court. The death warrant could not have been issued”.

The four convicts had assaulted and gang-raped the young woman inside a moving bus on December 16, 2012, before throwing her out of the vehicle. The woman died about two weeks later at a hospital in Singapore.

Ram Singh (35), the fifth convict in the case, allegedly killed self inside Tihar jail in 2013. An underage person involved in the incident, who was convicted by a juvenile justice board in 2015, was released from a correctional home after serving a three-year term.

In September 2013, a fast-track court awarded death penalty to the four convicts. It was upheld by the High Court in March 2014 and by the Supreme Court in May 2017. On July 9, 2018, the top court dismissed the review pleas filed by Mukesh, Pawan and Vinay, saying no grounds had been made out by them for the review. Mukesh’s review plea was turned down in December 2019.

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