A Delhi court has stayed the death warrant of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape case. The execution is thus withheld until further orders. The Patiala House court explained the stay on the death warrant by saying that the mercy petition of one of the four convicts, Pawan Gupta, is pending with the president.
While President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected the mercy plea of Pawan Gupta, the information thereof did not reach the court in time.
Earlier on Monday, the Patiala House Court had rejected a petition two of the convicts Akshay Singh and Pawan Kumar Gupta had filed, seeking a stay on the death warrant.
Reacting to the development, Nirbhaya’s mother expressed dismay over the court taking so long to execute its order to hang the culprits. Repeated postponement of execution indicates a failure of our system, she said. “Our entire system is supporting the criminal,” she added.
According to the court order, the four convicts of Nirbhaya were to be hanged on 3 March. For this, a hangman had reached Delhi on Sunday. On reaching here, he first studied the cell where the execution is to take place. On a parallel track, however, Pawan Gupta’s fate hanged in the balance.
One court after another, one date after the next
On 16 December 2012, Nirbhaya was gang-raped in a moving bus that went from Munirka to Vasant Vihar and Vasant Kunj in rounds. The bus crossed several police barriers on the way unchecked while the staff of the transport company (the driver and his helpers) not only raped Nirbhaya but also tortured her physically, going to the barbaric instance of inserting an iron rod through her genitalia, which ruptured her internal organs leading to her death some days later.
One of the accused Ram Singh committed suicide in the year 2013 in Tihar Jail while the ‘minor’ completed his sentence of three years in a juvenile home and is leading a life of anonymity in a coastal town of southern India.
After the Nirbhaya case, some changes were made in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Nirbhaya Act). It amended the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on laws related to sexual offences.
A fast track court was created that convicted the offenders and sentenced them to death. The Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court upheld the judgment.
But thereafter, the convicts had a right to plead for presidential clemency (commuting the death sentence to lifelong imprisonment). This plea is sent to the state government, which forwards it to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs with its recommendations. The AAP government in Delhi took two years to move this file.
When the file finally reached the president, the convicts began a series of mercy and curative petitions. While a singular convict could have been hanged in December 2019, due to the precedence set by the Harbans Singh case, those who commit a crime in a group must meet their punishment together, the Supreme Court had ruled in the 1980s. The convicts in the Nirbhaya case have been taking advantage of that ruling for the past three months, delaying their execution by filing petitions one by one.
However, as any further postponement of the execution of the convicts is unlikely, Vinay Sharma has begun betraying signs of a nervous breakdown. He is desperate to get certified as medically unfit for hanging.