The convicts in the sensational Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case will face the gallows, with the Supreme Court today reaffirming their death sentence holding that "no grounds" have been made out to review the verdict.
However, these death row convicts still have judicial redressal for a re-examination of the dismissal of their appeals and review pleas by way of a curative petition, which is the last legal remedy left for curing the defects, if any, in the judgement. Before facing the gallows, the convicts can also seek mercy from the President.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the grounds raised by convicts Mukesh (31), Pawan Gupta (24) and Vinay Sharma (25) for a review of its judgement of May 5 last year, have already been considered in the verdict delivered on their appeals against the Delhi High Court's judgement.
The bench, which also comprised Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan, said that after going through the grounds taken in the petitions, no new ground to review its judgement was found.
The fourth death row convict, Akshay Kumar Singh (33), has not yet filed a review petition against the apex court judgement, while another convict, Ram Singh, had allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail here on March 11, 2013.
A juvenile, who was among the accused, was convicted by a juvenile justice board. He was released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term.
The 23-year-old paramedic student was gangraped on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a running bus in South Delhi by six persons and severely assaulted before being thrown out on the road. She had succumbed to injuries on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.
Reacting to the apex court verdict, the parents of the victim said their faith in the judiciary has been reinstated and they hoped to get justice.
"The Supreme Court upholding its verdict is a strong message to those who commit such heinous crimes. Our faith in the judiciary has been reinstated. I appeal to the Prime Minister to take concrete steps against atrocities towards young girls and women," Asha Devi, the mother of the victim, said.
Dismissing the review pleas of Pawan and Vinay, Justice Bhushan, who wrote the judgement for the bench, said "the counsel for the appellants/petitioners had made elaborate submissions which were all duly considered by us in our main judgment (of May 5, 2017). In these review petitions, no ground has been made out which may furnish any ground to review the judgment."
"We, thus, find no merit in these review petitions and consequently the review petitions are dismissed," Justice Bhushan said, adding, "The hearing in criminal appeals (filed by the convicts against the high court's verdict) continued about 38 days".
In a separate verdict dismissing the review plea of Mukesh, the bench said, "We, after having heard counsel for the petitioner and the senior counsel for the respondent (state) and having gone through the grounds taken in the review petition, find that review petition does not disclose any ground on which review jurisdiction can be exercised by this Court..."
The bench also said that as per rules, a review in a criminal proceeding is permissible only on the ground of "error apparent" on the face of the record.
Regarding the submissions advanced by the lawyers for the three convicts who raised questions over the three dying declarations of the 23-year-old victim, the bench said these arguments were addressed at length at the stage of appeal and the court has already dismissed these contentions.
Dealing with arguments advanced by advocate A P Singh, appearing for convicts Vinay and Pawan, regarding abolition of death penalty in India, the bench referred to a constitution bench verdict of the top court and said it was held that "death penalty as contained in Penal Code is constitutionally valid".
"The submission of (A P) Singh that death penalty has been abolished by the Parliament of UK in the year 1966 and several Latin American countries and Australian states have also abolished death penalty, is no ground to efface the death penalty from the statute book of our country," the bench said.
"So far the death penalty remains in the penal code, the courts cannot be held to commit any illegality in awarding death penalty in appropriate cases," the bench said.
Regarding the convicts' contentions regarding alleged frame-up in the case, the bench said "In the review petitions, petitioners cannot ask the court to re-hear the appeals on merits which submissions have already been noted, considered and rejected".
It said the issues raised by the convicts regarding DNA samples, scientific evidence and statement of the victims' friend, who was also assaulted in the bus along with the victim, were considered by the bench while rejecting their appeals and they cannot "re-agitate" the same points again.
The apex court in its 2017 verdict had upheld the capital punishment awarded to them by the Delhi High Court and the trial court in the case.
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