Nirbhaya case: SC agrees to examine legal issues with separate hanging

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The plea came to the top court challenging the February 5 order of Delhi High Court ruling that the four convicts in the case would have to be executed simultaneously.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Thursday it may examine the legal issues emerging from the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, where four convicts are on death row, whether there is a possibility to hang the convicts separately.

A bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and A.S. Bopanna said the larger question before the court is: could there be separate hanging of the convicts, or it has to be simultaneous. "We would have to go into it", said the court.

The top court was hearing an appeal by the Centre and Delhi government pressing for separate hanging of the convicts who have exhausted all the legal remedies.

The plea came to the top court challenging the February 5 order of Delhi High Court ruling that the four convicts in the case would have to be executed simultaneously.

A trial court on Thursday issued fresh warrants with March 20, 5.30 a.m., as the date for the execution of the convicts -- Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31).

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Centre and Delhi government, contended before the court that the convicts have already made a mockery of the justice delivery system by capitalising on the loopholes in the legal process.

The court said that convicts' lawyers be prepared for arguments against separate hangings on March 23. Justice Banumathi said the court will lay down the law on whether separate hangings can be permitted to avoid delay after taking into account the execution of death warrants of these convicts have already been deferred thrice.

Mehta informed the bench the trial court has fixed March 20 as the date of the execution of convicts, who have at this stage exhausted all legal remedies.

The top court posted the matter for further hearing on March 23, as it would hear the matter on merits without any adjournment.

Mehta insisted that there is no statutory provision which stipulates that convicts have to be executed simultaneously, and only trial in a case would have to be conducted simultaneously.

"Today, there are four convicts. Tomorrow, there may be 10 or 20 such convicts and they may again delay the execution choosing to move the legal forum at different time," he said.

Mehta sought permission for the execution of Mukesh and Vinay as the challenge to the rejection of their mercy plea by the President has already been dismissed by the apex court.

"It is not our anxiety to hang somebody...Our anxiety is that credibility of the system is at stake," insisted Mehta.

He also informed the court that two other convicts -- Akshay and Pawan -- are likely to file pleas in the top court challenging rejection of their mercy petitions by the President.

"It is de-humanising to keep them under such threat," contended Mehta seeking the go-ahead on the execution of Mukesh and Vinay. The top court said it would hear the matter on March 23.

Mehta also cited the High Court order making it clear, on February 5, that convicts in the case have one week to exhaust all their remedies. But, the trial court kept extending the date of execution.

"The time can be extended by the High Court or the Supreme Court, and not by trial court, as it has no jurisdiction," Mehta added.

Justice Bhushan replied that trial court had to extend the date of execution, as the convicts' mercy plea was pending before the President.

Advocate A.P. Singh, representing Vinay and Akshay, said that Tihar jail is silent on the pending mercy plea of Akshay, rejected by the President, and was incomplete.

"Do not make a mockery of the system," Mehta told Singh.

A 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known as 'Nirbhaya,' was gang raped and savagely assaulted in a moving bus in South Delhi on December 16, 2012. She had died after a fortnight.


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