Nirbhaya case convicts are testing country's patience: Centre tells HC
The manner in which four death row convicts of the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case are abusing the legal system is testing the patience of the country, the Centre told Delhi High Court in a rare hearing on Sunday. The Centre challenged a trial court's order to stay the execution, meant for February 1 and reminded of the atrocities the 23-year-old went through.
The Nirbhaya case was termed "rarest of rare" crime by judges, and it certainly was. Six, including a minor, raped her on a moving bus, inserted rods in her private parts, pulled out her intestines and then dumped her to die on the road. After undergoing treatment in Delhi, Nirbhaya was shifted to Singapore, where she died on December 29, 2012.
Courtesy a quick trial, the four convicts — Akshay, Pawan, Mukesh, and Vinay, were sentenced to death in 2013. One key accused committed suicide, and the juvenile was punished accordingly. While the prompt sentencing was welcomed by all, the convicts exploited legal loopholes to escape. They were set to be hanged on January 22 but weren't. The hanging didn't happen on February 1, either.
Speaking about the same delay in its plea, the Centre told HC about the alleged encounter of rapists in the Hyderabad vet-rape case. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the celebrations after the alleged rapists were killed showed people were losing faith in the criminal justice delivery system. He said the judiciary's credibility and power to go ahead with the execution are at stake.
Mehta reminded of the cruelty inflicted upon Nirbhaya and said seven years have passed but convicts are still "playing" with the system. About mercy pleas filed before the President, Mehta said, "Mercy jurisdiction is an individualistic jurisdiction. They can't rely on mercy plea with the President and say if one convict's mercy is allowed, there would be a change of circumstances for the others."
Mehta said Pawan was filing "all kinds of petition barring the mercy plea". He added, "Mukesh filed almost his seventh legal proceeding on January 31. Till that point, he had still not filed his mercy plea. This is to deliberately delay the execution."
The matter was heard by a single-judge bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait. Mehta's arguments faced resistance from senior advocate Rebecca John, Mukesh's counsel. She said Centre was not part of proceedings and only "woke up" yesterday. John said the mercy plea was rejected on the basis of merit. She added Mukesh can't be "singled out" as all convicts are to be hanged together.
"Let me concede I have delayed the process, I am the worst person, I have committed a horrible crime which is unimaginable, still I am entitled to Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution," John said on Mukesh's behalf.
After the convicts' hanging was delayed again, Nirbhaya's mother Asha Devi said she will keep fighting. "At least the court should have given a fresh date for the death penalty. Why should the other three go free when they are deliberately not filing the mercy petition?" her father asked. The HC has reserved its judgment on the plea filed by Centre.