Quiet preparations on in Delhi’s Tihar jail to hang December 16 rape, murder convicts: Official
Prison officers in Delhi’s Tihar jail have begun arrangements to execute the four men convicted of the December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder of a physiotherapy student in the national capital, according to officials aware of the preparations.
These include approaching a prison in Bihar for gallows rope, writing to other states for services of hangmen, and inspections of the courtyard as well as the equipment that will be used to carry out the execution.
“We have ordered 10 new ropes from the Buxar jail. We are making preparations so that when the time comes, everything is in place. The ropes are made in Buxar jail by prisoners. They have to be of a particular type and should not break during the hanging or cut the throat. We had some old ropes but we did not want to take a chance,” said a Tihar officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh are on death row for the gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman who was tortured on a bus that she and a friend boarded in south Delhi’s Munirka. A fifth adult suspect in the case, Ram Singh, purportedly committed suicide in prison before the trial ended and a sixth was a minor at the time of the crime.
Prison officials did not indicate when the executions would take place and said that the four convicts were on October 27 reminded that they had exhausted all their legal options and that if they did not file a mercy petition within a week, the department would proceed with the execution process.
Last month, a mercy petition signed by one of the four convicts was first sent to the state government and then to Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal. State home minister Satyendar Jain and the LG recommended the petition be dismissed and forwarded the file to the President’s office. The convict, Vinay Sharma, withdrew the petition.
Two officials in the President’s office said there are no petitions from these convicts pending.
In a ruling in 2014, the Supreme Court held that a death row convict must be given a reasonable amount of time to take legal recourse against an execution warrant and to have a final meeting with members of his family. “Convicts need to be given 14 days from the date they have been told that their mercy petition has been rejected. The hanging too needs to be preceded by a notice,” said advocate Rishabh Sancheti, who was part of the legal team involved in the 2014 case and has represented convicts such as Surendra Kohli, whose death sentence was commuted over delays.
All of the preparations, the communications to Buxar prison officials and to Uttar Pradesh state officials (seeking services of hangmen), and the inspection of the gallows, which included a test carried out using a dummy weighing 70-80kg, was done on Monday, multiple officials told HT.
“We received a request letter from the Tihar prison through fax on December 9 (Monday) seeking services of the two hangmen of UP, as they do not have hangman there. The letter makes no mention of the convicts to be hanged but states there may be requirements,” said the director general (DG) of UP prisons administration and reform services, Anand Kumar.
A second Tihar officer confirmed that the department has written to not just UP but several states for the services of a hangman. Tihar does not have a hangman of its own at present. “If we do not get a hangman, it can be done by any jail official. We have to follow the manual and the process. Before Afzal’s hanging, we used the services of a hangman from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh,” this officer said, asking not to be named. Parliament attacks convict Afzal Guru was the last person to be hanged inside Tihar, on February 3, 2013. He was hanged by a jail official, whose name was never revealed by the government.
On Monday, prison officers also opened the gate of the “phasi kotha” in jail number 3, the courtyard where the execution will take place. Officers checked the iron beam, the wooden plank, and the lever. The officers then conducted a mock hanging by using sand bags to test the weight on the beam, plank, and lever.
(With inputs from Rohit Singh in Lucknow)