Barely three hours before the scheduled hanging, the Supreme Court in a pre-dawn hearing on Friday brought down the curtain on the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case by dismissing a plea of one of the four death row convicts against rejection of his second mercy plea by President Ram Nath Kovind.
A bench comprising Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A.S. Bopanna rejected the fervent plea of Pawan Gupta that his mercy plea had been wrongly rejected by the President without considering the fact that he was a minor at the time of offence in 2012.
“The consistent view of this court is that scope for review of President’s decision in mercy petitions is very limited,” the bench said.
“What are the grounds on which you are challenging rejection of mercy plea by President…You had relied on school certificate to claim juvenility and are using it again and again. You are asking us to review judgement, your juvenility claim has been rejected by lower court, Delhi High Court and us as well,” it said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the Delhi Police, objected the juvenility plea of Pawan Gupta and said that this had been dealt earlier by all the courts.
The court also did not consider the plea of lawyer A.L. Singh, appearing for the death row convict Pawan Gupta, that his execution be deferred for one or two days so that he can record his statement in an assault case. Singh alleged that the convict was assaulted in prison by policemen last year.
The bench asked the Centre to consider the fervent request of the lawyer for the convicts that the family members of Pawan Gupta and Akshay Singh be allowed to meet them for 5-10 minutes before hanging.
Mr. Mehta said that though this is painful, the jail manual does not permit convicts to meet family members just before the hanging.
On March 5, the trial court issued fresh warrants for hanging on March 20 at 5.30 am of all convicts in the case – Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Singh (31).
A 23-year-old paramedic student, referred to as Nirbhaya, was gang-raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012, in a moving bus in south Delhi by six people before she was thrown out on the road. One of the six accused in the case, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail in 2013. A juvenile, who was among the accused, was convicted by a juvenile justice board and was released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term.
Earlier, in a last-minute plea, three of the convicts had moved the Delhi High Court on March 19 evening, challenging a trial court order declining to stay their execution. The High Court said there was no foundation in their plea. A Bench, headed by Justice Manmohan, heard the matter at 9 p.m.