Photo has been used for illustrative purposes. File
Resmi Sivaram, Correspondent
A lower court on Thursday postponed a ruling for fresh death warrants sought for the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case convicts.
The parents of the victim had sought the order, but Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana pointed to the rights of the convicts under Article 21 of the Constitution for his decision to adjourn the hearing till 2 pm on Monday.
At the same time, the Supreme Court rejected the request of Vinay Sharma, one of the accused, to peruse recommendation for rejection of his mercy plea. The order was passed by a bench that included Justices R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna.
Judge Rana said: “In my considered opinion, Article 21 of the Constitution protects the life and liberty of a condemned prisoner till his last breath. It is a matter of right to exhaust his legal remedies and the court cannot afford to ignore the fundamental rights of the convict.”
Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi, said, “I am keeping faith in you (the judge), but when the death warrant is not passed, I will again come on the next date with the same hope and faith.”
The parents of the 2012 Delhi gangrape case victim had told the court during the hearing that patience of the society is being tested by this case.
Judiciary is being taken for granted as the death warrant has been postponed thrice in the case, they pointed out.
“It was a heinous crime which shook the conscience of the society. But now, it is the people’s will which is being bulldozed,” their lawyer said.
The parents moved the court earlier this week after the seven-day period given by the Delhi high court expired.
On the first day of hearing on Wednesday, the mother of the victim broke down after the judge offered legal aid to convict Pawan Gupta.
“This court is of the opinion that any of the condemned convict is entitled for legal aid till his last breath,” said the judge.
“I am here from one and a half years, I am here and waiting for them to avail their legal remedies. However, even I am victim’s mother, and even I have some rights. I would request you to please issue the death warrant,” said Asha Devi.
Tihar jail authorities had also filed a status report before the trial court on Tuesday saying that no legal option was preferred by any of the four convicts - Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31) - in the last seven day period, granted by the Delhi High Court.
At the apex court, AP Singh, lawyer for the convicts, came up with two new arguments as he was challenging the rejection of Vinay’s mercy plea by the President.
Singh said the official file didn’t have the signatures of the home minister and the Lt. Governor. The court pointed out that he was wasting time.
Singh then said Vinay was tortured inside the jail.
“They are not habitual offenders, they are not terrorists,” he said, adding that Vinay was depressed.
Vinay was never in solitary confinement, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said. “Vinay was regularly checked. There are jail psychiatrists. This is a regular check-up. All prisoners are checked.
As per his lastest medical report, he is medically fit.” The physiotherapy intern was gang-raped and savagely assaulted on the night of December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital.
Ram Singh, the prime accused, committed suicide by hanging himself in Tihar jail days after the trial began.
“I have been requesting the court for one and a half year to ask the convicts to avail their legal remedies. It has been more than seven years. What about my rights?” Asha Devi pleaded to the court.
The reaction came after the Patiala House Court Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana adjourned the hearing, on application seeking issuance of fresh execution date after advocate A.P. Singh apprised the court that he is no longer representing convict Pawan Gupta in the case, for Thursday.
The court gave Pawan the “liberty to choose” his counsel from the list of empanelled advocates of the Delhi State Legal Service Authority. The matter will now be heard on at 3 p.m. on February 13.
Victim’s father also requested the court not to grant legal aid to the convict. “It will be unjust to the give him a lawyer,” he said.
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