The Centre Sunday sought hanging of the convicts in the December 16 gangrape-murder case citing last year’s alleged police “encounter” in Hyderabad, and said the public celebration of the killing of all four accused in the rape-murder case was indicative of “depreciation in the country’s judicial system”.
“There is a deliberate, calculated, well-thought of design to frustrate the process of law,” Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre in the Delhi High Court said, adding that “seven years have gone by and they are still playing with the machinery of the judicial system”.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait reserved his order on a petition by the MHA against a trial court order postponing execution of death warrants issued against the four convicts in the case.
The four accused in the rape and murder of a Hyderabad veterinarian were shot dead by the Telangana Police in December last year, when they were taken to the spot to recreate the crime scene and allegedly attacked police and tried to escape.
SG Mehta said the “execution of its executive power is at stake”. “People are not sending their daughters outside till such monsters are on road,” the SG said, adding that the “convicts are testing the patience of the nation. The conscience of the nation was shaken. What happened in Telangana (Hyderabad) is being looked into but people celebrated. It gave a wrong indication on judicial system. People are losing faith in the system”.
He submitted that “in the interest of the society and… of the victim, death sentence cannot be delayed. It is also in the interest of the convict, any delay in execution of the death sentence will have a de-humanising effect”.
On Friday, a day ahead of the scheduled hanging of the four convicts — Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh — a Delhi court deferred their execution, saying the country cannot afford to discriminate against a death row convict in pursuit of legal remedies.
Senior advocate Rebecca M John, appearing for convict Mukesh Singh, urged the High Court not to set aside the trial court’s order. She argued that the Centre should have approached the Supreme Court against the trial court order, as the authority to approach for execution is Delhi government and not the Centre.
John also opposed the Centre’s contention that the convict delayed the execution, saying “neither his curative nor mercy (plea) was dismissed on account of delay, but was rejected on merit”.
“You may hang me. But no one has the right to condemn me for working within legal framework,” she said, adding that “if sentence is common for four convicts, then execution has to be common”.
Appearing for the other three convicts, counsel AP Singh argued that they belong to poor, rural and Dalit families and can’t be made to bear the brunt of ambiguity in the law.
The hearing, which went on for over three hours, also saw the SG arguing that the Delhi Prison Rules provide for execution of death sentence: “It is the judicial adjudication of a conduct. It was so abhorrent that all three courts concluded that the convicts deserve death penalty.”
“The only mandate under Rule is that death sentence after confirmation would not be executed till application for special leave is decided by the Supreme Court (SC).There is no other embargo on stay of execution,” the SG said.
He argued that the mercy plea is an individual jurisdiction. “President will not sit in appeal. Simultaneous hanging is there till SC finally concludes the issue judicially. Mercy (plea) can be filed after the SC concludes…”
However, John, argued that there is ambiguity with respect to piecemeal execution, which is why the Centre has approached the Supreme Court to settle guidelines on singling out one or two convicts.
“Even as a death row prisoner, I have to be treated fairly in terms of Article 21, till I die. All procedure, not matter what the stage, have to be fair and reasonable.
“No prejudice will be caused to anyone. If everything is rejected, the date is not far away when execution will happen. We cannot circumvent the procedure when life is at stake. My rights are protected and that’s why I am pressing for a common execution,” argued John.
“They have the right to be dealt fairly, but so was the right of the victim to be treated fairly,” SG Mehta said, adding that the Delhi government and Tihar do not have a problem if the convicts are hanged one after the other.
On Saturday, President Ram Nath Kovind rejected Vinay’s mercy plea. The SC also dismissed Pawan’s plea seeking a review of its order dismissing his juvenility claim.
Mukesh has exhausted all legal remedies, including the clemency plea which was dismissed by the President and the appeal against the rejection was thrown out by the SC on January 29. Curative petitions of Vinay and Akshay have been rejected by the SC. Subsequently, Akshay filed his mercy plea before the President, who is yet to pass his decision. Pawan is yet to file his curative and mercy petition.
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