February 18, 2020 1:06:05 am
A Delhi court has issued fresh death warrants against four convicts in the December 2012 gangrape and murder case, observing that deferring the death warrants would be “sacrilegious to the rights of the victim for expeditious justice”.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana has set the date of execution of the convicts — Pawan Gupta (25), Mukesh Singh (32), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) — to March 3 at 6 am. The date was deferred twice earlier due to the convicts’ remaining legal remedies. Currently, Pawan is yet to file curative and mercy petitions. Akshay, too, has expressed an intent to file a fresh mercy petition.
In his order, ASJ Rana wrote, “There cannot be any quarrel with the proposition that protection under Article 21 is available to the convicts till their last breath. However, Article 21 merely guarantees an opportunity to the condemned convicts to exercise their legal rights; however, whether to utilise or not to utilise the opportunity is a matter of choice of the condemned convicts.”
After the order was announced, the victim’s mother said, “I am happy the court has set a date of execution. It has been deferred twice; hopefully the convicts will now hang.”
Outside Patiala House court, several relatives of the convicts protested against the decision. Vinay’s mother said, “Why hang them? They should be given a choice to reform. We are not saying let them out; will life imprisonment not suffice?”
Special Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan told the court that barring one convict, mercy petitions of the other three have been rejected by the President, and no application was pending before him or the Supreme Court, hence there was “no impediment on the court to execute fresh death warrants”.
Vrinda Grover, who appeared on behalf of Mukesh, was discharged by the court after she said the convict wished to engage a different counsel.
Mukesh’s mother Ram Bai had also moved the application for a different counsel. ASJ Rana asked Bai, “She (Vrinda) has been looking after your case. She has fought for you. Why do you want to change?”
Bai, however, told the ASJ: “Please don’t give my son the death sentence. You are my god now.”
The court then appointed advocate Ravi Qazi as Mukesh’s new counsel. Qazi, who also represents convict Pawan, told the court that Pawan intends to move a curative petition and a mercy petition.
However, ASJ Rana observed that the criminal appeal of the convicts was dismissed by the apex court, and even after a lapse of 33 months, if Pawan has not filed his curative or mercy petitions, then it may be inferred that the convict is either “satisfied with the apex court verdict or he is simply interested in merely delaying the court proceedings”.
“Convict Pawan cannot be permitted to defeat the ends of justice by simply opting to remain indolent,” the order read.
AP Singh, who appeared for convicts Akshay and Vinay, told the court, “Vinay is suffering from acute mental illness and, therefore, the death sentence cannot be carried out.”
Singh also told the court that he will file a “fresh full mercy petition for Akshay since in his earlier mercy petition, due to poverty and ignorance, the complete facts could not be brought before the President of India”.
The court, however, did not find any merit in Vinay’s claim of mental illness, after it perused a medical report prepared by senior medical officer, Akesh Narade, on January 30, which certified that Vinay was “psychologically well adjusted”.
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