Nearly seven years, three months and three days after a young medical student Jyoti Singh was gang-raped, brutally tortured and left to die in a moving bus in Delhi, the four adult convicts – Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma who took part in the heinous crime were hanged till death at 5.30 am on Friday in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi was calm when her daughter’s killers were finally hanged, it was a long struggle. Earlier, less than two hours ago at around 3:30 am on Friday, the Supreme Court of India dismissed their final petition against the death sentence. Before moving the Supreme Court, the convicts had petitioned the Delhi High Court too on the midnight of Thursday-Friday where their lawyer cited the Coronavirus outbreak for the lack of proper documents with the hurriedly filed appeal. A third court had already declared that they had run out of all legal options of stopping their execution. All the four criminals – Akshay Thakur (31) Pawan Gupta (25) Vinay Sharma (26) and Mukesh Singh (32) – were hanged at the Tihar Jail where they had spent the last few hours in isolation. This is the first time in the history of India that four convicts were hanged at the same time. They refused to eat and were awake the entire night. The jail was on lockdown throughout the night and no prisoner in Asia’s largest jail did sleep. There was anxiety, fear and pain of death on those four faces and the other inmates were restless with mixed emotions. Most people in the country obviously wanted the guilty to be punished. However, there are also those who share the view of Mulayam Singh Yadav and don’t really see rape as a crime but just an act of boys having fun.
Those who support death penalty in crimes like rapes, serial murders, torture leading to death, child trafficking, terrorism are treated as terrorists by those who don’t. These people are quite glad about the verdict. This group is glad about the judgement but partially agree with the punishment. Among those who see rape as a serious crime, everyone agrees that the guilty need to be punished. They just disagree whether a person can be killed by the state for any crime at all or should ‘Life Imprisonment’ be the maximum possible punishment. The same happened with these four. Majority of Indian’s wanted these four to be hanged. Similarly, the jail inmates too had difference of opinion. Till the last moment, the four filed multiple petitions over the past few months managing to stall their execution thrice at the eleventh hour. Several “dummy executions” had been carried out by the hangman Pawan Jallad as petitions stalled the execution repeatedly.
Nirbhaya’s rape and murder was undoubtedly one of the worst rape cases to have happened in India. In those 50–60 minutes, humanity, as we know it, was murdered. There were total of six people who committed this crime. One of them committed suicide in police custody while one other was released on 20 December 2015. The reason being that he was a minor (17 yrs 6 months old) on the day of committing the dreadful act. Imagine, he fell 6 months short of being a criminal. It disgusts me to the core that someone actually was able to exploit the loophole in our law to get this criminal out unharmed. He is at large and who knows, what he is up to. This juvenile was one of cruelest person among the rest. Hope he must have got a lesson for life after seeing his four partners in crime hanged. His plunge however triggered a big change. Our laws were modified and now a criminal won’t be considered juvenile if (s)he is found to be more than 16 years old. This amendment could not hold this juvenile for hang-till-death but the rest got the harshest punishment.
When all the other legal options were exhausted for the Nirbhaya convicts, the Tihar Jail administration asked them to apply for a mercy petition. Here it is so that even if one convict applies for mercy plea in the Nirbhaya case, it applies to all. Mark that the convict or his relative can only submit the mercy plea when the review appeal has been turned down by the SC and the punishment has been upheld. Now the mercy plea is based upon certain grounds on which the grant of pardon is requested. However, these grounds may or may not have value in the eyes of the law but they certainly hold ground for the release by the President. While it appears that the President has the discretion of whether to grant mercy or not, the advice of the cabinet binds his decision and he has to consult them before passing any decision. Even in 2014–15, the SC marked out that since there is no particular outer limit of time, deciding the duration till which mercy plea has to be disposed of, it surely intervene to seek the earliest disposal in case of a delay and in the Epuru Sudhakar case, it also quoted that the mercy plea decision is not a mere prerogative for the President and his decision can be subjected to judicial review in case of extreme arbitraries though however there is no legality in the Constitution challenging the decision of the President. Also, commutation is possible if the mercy petition was kept for a long delay.
Now, the process involves the forming of a mercy appeal within 7 days by the Jail authorities and then, passing it through the Governor to the President. The appeal is subsequently examined by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Cabinet while also taking the view of the State concerned and after that, the recommendation is made to the President who then authorises. Since the process contains so many steps and legalities, it is normally bound to take time and any irregularities in that would mean a Constitutional bypass on the terms of Article 21 which specifies that, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. Also, the SC has pointed out that any convict has the right to seek legal remedy till his last breath on the basis of Article 21 and it should be respected. In the Nirbhaya case, the mercy petition was rejected since the case took the country by storm and now with the Hyderabad case in limelight, this government would be hell bound to show that they don’t treat crimes against women leniently. Finally justice prevailed, the rapists got hanged.
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