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Friday 5 June 2020

Nirbhaya’s convicts crack a final joke, move HC

The lawyer of the convicts in the Nirbhaya case has moved the Delhi High Court, demanding that the National Human Rights Commission investigate the condition of his clients

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In the Nirbhaya case, efforts of the four convicts are afoot again to avoid execution. In their latest move, their lawyer has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court, demanding that the National Human Rights Commission of India be directed to investigate physical abuse and mental condition of his clients.

On 17 February, the Patiala House court in Delhi had issued a death warrant for the execution of the four convicts (Vinay Kumar Sharma, Pawan Kumar Gupta, Mukesh Singh and Akshay Kumar). According to the warrant, the four are to be hanged in Tihar Jail No. 3 of Delhi on 3 March.

The Tihar jail administration is in the final stages of preparation in view of the hanging on 3 March. The executioner, Pawan from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, may reach Delhi tomorrow. It is mandatory for him to arrive before 2 PM, as he has to have complete information about the convicts’ physical status for the execution.

One final rehearsal is to take place before the execution on Tuesday.

Nirbhaya case history

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 CodeIndian 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.

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