Further delay in the execution of the Nirbhaya case convicts would be “sacrilegious” to the rights of the victim and for justice, a Delhi court noted on Monday, fixing 6 am on March 3 as the fresh date for their hanging. This means the four men will be executed on the said date, unless Pawan Gupta decides to file mercy or curative petitions at the last minute as he is the only one who hasn’t exhausted all legal remedies provided under the Constitution.
Though the Delhi high court-laid deadline for Pawan to file curative and mercy plea ended on February 11, authorities, including the President’s secretariat and the Supreme Court, are known to be lenient and open to hearing any plea till the last minute in capital punishment jurisprudence.
“Article 21 merely guarantees an opportunity to the condemned convicts to exercise their legal rights. However, whether to utilise the opportunity or not is a matter of choice of the condemned convicts,” additional sessions judge Dharmendra Rana observed. He pointed out that “convict Pawan cannot be permitted to defeat the ends of justice by simply opting to remain indolent”.
“After a lapse of 33 months, Pawan has opted to file neither any curative nor mercy petition,” the court observed, saying there can be only “two possible inferences for such indolence; 1) either convict Pawan is satisfied with the verdict of the Supreme Court or 2) he is simply interested in merely delaying the court proceedings.”
In either case, he cannot claim that the execution of the sentence needs to be delayed further, the judge underlined, adding that even the HC gave “one more opportunity” to Pawan, “unambiguously clarifying to exercise his rights within a week, failing which requisite action shall be initiated without any further delay”.
The court also noted that the black warrant issued to fix a date of hanging has been deferred twice and Monday’s order is the third time it has been issued against the four men - Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Kumar Sharma and Akshay Thakur. “It is hereby directed that the death warrants, as issued by this court vide order dated January 7, 2020 in respect of the condemned convicts namely Mukesh, Pawan, Akshay and Vinay, shall now be carried into effect by causing the said convicts to be hanged by the neck until they are dead on March 3 at 6 am,” the court directed, acknowledging that the execution dates of January 22 and February 1 had to be deferred.
During the proceedings on Monday, Pawan’s counsel Ravi Qazi told the court that the convict “intends to move a curative petition before the Supreme Court and mercy petition before the President.”
Meanwhile Akshay’s counsel A P Singh told the court that he plans to file a second mercy petition since the first one that was rejected had shortcomings “due to poverty and ignorance” and complete facts could not be brought before the President. But the court refused to entertain the argument, noting that "mere preparation of a fresh mercy petition or in the words of court 'a complete mercy petition' cannot be a ground to defer the execution of the death warrants."