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Early morning drama at SC couple of hours before execution of Nirbhaya case convicts

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

It was well past midnight when the Supreme Court was buzzing with activities as the four death row convicts in the sensational Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case made a last-ditch effort to save themselves from the gallows.

The focus from the Tihar Jail number three, the venue of execution of Pawan Gupta, Vinay Kumar, Mukesh Singh and Akshay Singh at 5.30 AM on Friday, shifted to the top court as it agreed to conduct a pre-dawn hearing on the plea of Gupta challenging rejection of his second mercy petition by President Ram Nath Kovind.

In the death row case of Yakub Memon, who was sent to the gallows in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, the court had in 2015 conducted a similar unprecedented hearing to buttress the impression that even such convicts are accorded due hearing.

Minutes after the Delhi High Court dashed the hopes of all four convicts to avoid the gallows at 12.09 AM, Gupta's counsel lawyer A P Singh rushed to the residence of an apex court registrar to get the plea listed latest by 2.30 AM.

Security personnel, mentioning officer and the registry officials, manning the apex court during night hours and who were anticipating such kind of moves, scrambled together to ensure that everything was in place if the apex court agrees to sit in the night.

The moment it was announced that a three-judge bench headed by Justice R Banumathi would be taking up Gupta's plea, the doors of court number 5 were opened after proper sanitisation in view of coronavirus concerns.

The apex court's direction that a lawyer will be allowed only one associate during the hearing due to measures to deal with COVID-19 came in the way of the entry of lawyer Singh and his battery of associates.

Singh, on being denied entry with all his associates, created ruckus at the entry gate of the apex court's premises and sat on 'dharna' for a brief period and got up later only when the authorities allowed all of his associates the entry.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and Delhi Police, arrived along with his associates at 2.15 AM to assist the court.

The hearing, which commenced at 2.30 AM, lasted for 45 minutes with the concluding findings that there was no merit and the plea was dismissed.

Then came the fervent and passionate request from the lawyer that the family members of two convicts -- Pawan and Akshay -- be allowed to meet for five to ten minutes before the execution.

Visibly moved, the judges asked the Solicitor General to consider the request, who, in turn, said though it was painful, it cannot be allowed as jail manual does not permit this.

After the lawyers and mediapersons came out of the courtroom, a woman, who claimed herself to be an activist supporting the gallows for the convicts, started abusing Singh, the counsel for convicts, on camera of various channels.

Sensing trouble, the security guards swung into action and drove the woman out of the apex court's premises and asked video journalists not to shoot the incident.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 20 2020. 17:54 IST