Two petitions related to the hanging of the four convicts of Nirbhaya came up for hearing in the Supreme Court on Thursday when a bench of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna found themselves dealing with the two petitions. While one was filed by the Union government that sought separate hangings of the four convicts (Mukesh Kumar, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakur) as and when their mercy petitions were dismissed by the President the other was a petition by Sharma challenging the President’s rejection of his mercy plea.
The SC reserved its verdict on Vinay’s petition and said it would pronounce judgment on Friday, when it will also hear the counsel for all four deathrow convicts on the Centre’s plea for their hangings to be separated. So, no one knows when the death row convicts will be deemed to have exhausted their legal remedies and a finality reached about the date when they will be hanged.
It may be remembered that after the SC rejected review and curative petitions of the four convicts, Pawan had filed a plea in Delhi High Court claiming to be a juvenile at the time of crime on December 16, 2012. His plea was dismissed by the court. His appeal was rejected by Supreme Court as well. Mercy petitions of other three viz Mukesh, Vinay and Akshay who invoked the President’s mercy powers for commutation of death penalty to life imprisonment were also turned down.
The Centre is challenging a Delhi HC order of February 5 declining the plea for the convicts to be hanged separately by delinking those who have already exhausted all their remedies from those who have not. The HC had set a deadline of 7 days for the convicts to exhaust all options.
The SC is aware of the delaying tactics, but can do little except hear the petitions filed through advocates as these were within the convicts’ rights. Once the seven-day period granted by the HC got over, Vinay filed a petition in the SC challenging rejection of his mercy plea by the President.
Vinay’s counsel kept repeating his arguments for two hours, leaving the judges exasperated. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta took 15 minutes to show the files of the home ministry and the Delhi government to point out that each and every aspect and fact narrated in the mercy petition were carefully scrutinised and considered.