President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected the mercy petition of a second convict in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case even as the Centre told the Delhi High Court on Saturday that the four condemned prisoners have taken the judicial process for a "joyride" and are acting in tandem to delay their execution.
Hours after the clemency plea of Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) was dismissed by the President, Akshay Thakur (31), a third death row convict, filed a mercy petition. The 32-year-old Mukesh Kumar Singh, whose mercy plea has been rejected, and Pawan Gupta (25) are the other two condemned prisoners.
A trial court on Friday postponed the execution of the four men scheduled at 6 am on Saturday in Tihar jail, giving the condemned prisoners a reprieve for the second time in two weeks.
In the order, the judge noted that if an appeal or an application is made by even one convict, the execution of the death warrant shall be also postponed in the case of co-convicts also.
The Centre rushed to the Delhi High Court on Saturday challenging the trial court's order staying the execution and mentioned the plea before Chief Justice D N Patel for an urgent hearing. The plea was heard by Justice Suresh Kait towards the end of the day after which the judge sought the response of the four convicts. The high court will again hear the matter on Sunday.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the four convicts have taken the judicial process for a "joyride" and are acting in tandem to delay their execution.
"This is a classic case where the convicts have taken the process of law for a joyride," Mehta contended.
He argued that the convicts were not only abusing the process of law, but they were testing everyone's patience.
"This is grossest abuse of process of law."
Mehta submitted that the convicts wanted the trial court to understand the value of a human life, but they forget the girl (victim) also had a life.
"This was one of the cases which shook the conscience of the nation and the society is waiting for justice," he added.
Justice Kait then issued notice to the four convicts, DG(Prisons) and Tihar Jail authorities seeking their stand on the Centre's plea. The Centre contended that the trial court judge has acted beyond its jurisdiction in postponing the death warrants issued against the four convicts.
The plea said the trial court, while postponing the death warrants "till further orders", has failed to consider that the convicts were found guilty for gruesome and horrible offence of gang-rape and murder of a woman.
It further said the convicts were given sufficient opportunity to avail all the remedies available to them but they deliberately chose to delay the process of filing their pleas.
The plea said the conduct of the convicts clearly shows their intention to delay the process of execution of death sentence, which is not only an abuse of process of law but also mockery of courts and the judicial system.
Union Home Ministry officials said the President has rejected Vinay's mercy plea which was filed on Wednesday.
Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel said Akshay Thakur filed the mercy plea before President Kovind on Saturday.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known as 'Nirbhaya' (fearless), 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.
Six people including the four convicts, Ram Singh and a juvenile -- were named as accused. The trial of the five adult men began in a special fast-track court in March 2013.
Ram Singh, the prime accused, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in Tihar jail days after the trial began. The juvenile, who was said to be the most brutal of the attackers, was put in a correctional home for three years. Singh was released in 2015 and sent to an undisclosed location amid concerns over a threat to his life. The juvenile, when released, was 20 years old.
Mukesh, Vinay, Akshay and Pawan were sentenced to death in September 2013.