One of the four death row convicts in the December 16 gangrape-murder case, Pawan Gupta (25), Thursday refused to accept the offer of ‘legal aid’ in a Delhi court, which provided him a counsel citing fundamental rights available to a “condemned convict”. “Right of legal aid flows from Article 21, which makes no distinction between a law-abiding citizen and a condemned convict while protecting life and liberty against any unlawful violation,” said Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana. The court appointed advocate Ravi Qazi to represent Pawan after his father did not turn up or take calls.
It also deferred till February 17 the decision to fix a date to carry out execution of death warrants against the convicts — Pawan, Mukesh Singh (32), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31).
The Delhi government and the victim’s counsel contended that “there is no bar on the court from fixing a fresh date for execution of death warrant”. The court said: “… Article 21 protects life and liberty of a condemned convict till his last breath”. “A condemned convict is entitled… to exhaust his legal remedies and the court cannot afford to ignore his fundamental rights,” it said.
The victim’s parents and members of an NGO protested outside court premises and demanded that the convicts be hanged at the earliest. Also protesting outside the court were family members of the convicts, who held placards and raised slogans questioning “why four lives (must) be taken for one death”.
During hearing of two separate pleas by Delhi government and the victim’s mother, praying for fixing an execution date, the court was told that “the patience of people… is being tested”. “The convicts are having luxury life in jail,” said the victims counsel.
To which the counsel for one of the convicts said: “We are dying every single minute and they (counsel for victims and state) say we are enjoying life in jail.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has rejected Vinay’s request to inspect the file on the basis of which his mercy petition was rejected. The court will pronounce its decision on the plea challenging rejection of Vinay’s mercy petition Friday.
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