New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday refused to stay the death warrant issued against one of the convicts in the 16 December gangrape and murder case, stating that there was no error in the trial court order issuing the black warrant.
The court said only a sessions court or the Supreme Court could hear the plea challenging a lower court order issuing black warrants against all four convicts. Black warrant or death warrant proceedings take place after the person on death row has exhausted all legal remedies available to a convict, according to the law.
Justice Manmohan Singh of the Delhi High Court said the Supreme Court had rejected all appeals, review and curative pleas in the case, and there was “nothing wrong with the trial court order”.
Appearing for convict Mukesh Singh, senior counsel Rebecca John said she could be allowed to withdraw the plea and approach a sessions court. The Delhi High Court, however, rejected the petition.
Justice Singh also questioned advocate John over the delay in filing the curative plea as Mukesh and other three convicts’ criminal appeal challenging the 2014 HC verdict that upheld their death penalty was dismissed by the SC in 2017.
“Criminal appeal was rejected in 2017. Why didn’t you move your curative and mercy pleas back then?” Singh asked. “What were you doing for two-and-a-half years? The law only provides you a ‘reasonable’ time to file curative and mercy pleas.”
To this, John argued that at no point did the SC while dealing with the review petition mention anything about time limitations.
There could be no hanging on 22 January: Tihar jail admin
According to the law laid down by the Supreme Court, senior counsel Rebecca John argued, a convict is granted 14 days from the time his mercy petition is rejected. She urged the court that this time be granted.
Advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Tihar jail administration (Delhi government), argued that the plea filed by Mukesh was “premature” since the mercy plea had not been decided upon, and according to the Supreme Court verdict, there could be no hanging on 22 January as a period of 14 days needed to lapse.
On 7 January, a Delhi court issued death warrants against the four convicts in the 2012 gangrape and murder case. The hanging is scheduled to take place at 7 am on 22 January.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, however, said the curative and mercy pleas of all the convicts were being filed separately and at different stages to “defeat the purpose and procedure of law”.
During the hearing on 7 January, the prosecution had said there was no application by any of the convicts pending before any court or the President right now, and the review petition of all the convicts had been dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Urging the court to issue the death warrants, the prosecution had said, “In between issuance and execution of death warrants, if the convicts want to file curative petitions they can do so.”
The counsel for two of the convicts — Mukesh and Vinay — said they were in the process of filing curative petitions in the Supreme Court. The review of all four convicts stands rejected, whereas the curative petitions filed by two of them have been dismissed too.
A 23-year-old girl was gangraped and murdered by six men on a moving bus on 16 December 2012. The main accused, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in Tihar jail during the trial. Another accused, a minor at the time of the crime, was sent to a reform facility and released after three years.
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