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SC opens doors past midnight yet again

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Supreme Court's pre-dawn hearing of the plea on Friday by one of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, who were all finally hanged in the wee hours, was yet another in the line of such extraordinary proceedings conducted by the country's top court.

Post midnight Friday, the apex court opened its door to Pawan Gupta's last plea challenging the rejection of his second mercy petition by the President.

A bench of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna took up the matter at 2.30 am. It however rejected the plea saying no ground was made out to warrant judicial review of the President's decision to reject his mercy plea.

Following that, Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) were executed at 5.30 am in Tihar Jail for the savage rape of the 23-year-old intern on December 16, 2012. She died a fortnight later of her injures.

Similarly, the apex court had on July 29, 2015 sat through the midnight to consider an urgent plea to stay the scheduled execution of lone death row convict of 1993 Mumbai blasts case, Yakub Memon, at 6 AM in Yerwada jail the next day.

Among such petitions was the matter concerning the sensational case of Noida's Nithari serial murders convict Surinder Koli, when the apex court in 2014 heard the late night move on his behalf for staying the execution of his death sentence.

Also, in another case titled Shatrughan Chauhan v/s Union of India, in 2014, the execution of death sentence against 16 persons at 4 PM was challenged and the lawyers rushed with a petition to the residence of then Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam.

The then CJI and Justice M Y Iqbal heard the matter at around 11.30 PM and at around midnight ordered a stay on the execution.

Another such hearing took place on April 9, 2013 when a petition was moved on behalf of one Manganlal Barela against the execution of his death sentence in a murder case.

The midnight knocks at the Supreme Court have not only been confined to the cases of execution of death warrants but have pertained to political and other drama as well.

In May 2018, the top court had conducted midnight proceeding to hear Congress' plea to thwart the attempt of the BJP to form the government in Karnataka following the invitation by the Governor.

In another dramatic matter, as far back as 1985, the top court had attracted tremendous criticism in a case when then Chief Justice E S Venkatramaiah was woken up at midnight and proceeded to grant bail to industrialist L M Thapar.

Thapar was arrested on the basis of a Reserve Bank of India complaint that several companies run by him had violated the then Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA).

In another politically sensitive matter, the hearing had also continued past midnight at the residence of the judge on the intervening night of December 6 and 7, 1992 after the demolition of Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid at Ayodhya.

The Ayodhya case was heard at the residence of Justice M N Venkatachaliah, who later became the Chief Justice of India.

In that case, one of the parties to the Ayodhya dispute had rushed to the apex court immediately after the structure was razed by karsevaks.

After the hearing at his residence, the bench headed by Justice Venkatachaliah directed that status quo to be maintained at the disputed site.

In another infamous Ranga-Billa criminal case of the national capital, a bench headed by Justice Y V Chandrachud, who held office of Chief Justice of India from February 22, 1978 to July 11, 1985, sat late in the night to consider a plea that they should not be hanged.

Lawyers also recall some political matters also when the apex court had held late night hearings, including the one in which it ordered a composite floor test in Uttar Pradesh in 1998 to determine who enjoyed the majority -- Kalyan Singh or Jagadambika Pal.

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

First Published: Fri, March 20 2020. 15:46 IST