The Delhi High Court on Wednesday heard the plea filed by Mukesh Singh, one of the four convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case seeking a stay on the death warrant issued against him by the Patiala house court scheduling him, along with the other three convicts, to be hanged to death on January 22, at 7:00 am. Senior Advocate Rebecca John representing Mukesh before Justice Manmohan of the Delhi High Court asked for the setting aside of the January 9 order that had issued the death warrant against the four accused. John told the High Court that the notice served to the four convicts mentioned a mercy petition before the President as the only legal remedy available to them and left out the option of a curative petition.
“Two out of four convicts moved the Supreme Court in a curative plea,” said John. She further told the Delhi High Court that the precedent laid down in Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India stated that even death row convicts should be protected under Article 21 of the Constitution which grants every citizen a fundamental right to life. Further, these convicts also have a right of legal representation, said Rebecca John.
Additional Solicitor General arguing for the government in Court told Justice Manmohan that the four convicts were all filing their curative petitions and the mercy petitions separately and at different stages of the proceedings to defeat the purpose behind the death penalty. He stated that it was almost after three years since the final judgment of the Supreme Court was pronounced holding the convicts guilty that the curative petitions saw the light of the day in the Supreme Court.
Advocate Rahul Mehra, Standing Counsel for the Delhi government in the Delhi High Court stated that it was “not possible” for the hanging to take place on January 22, since the Jail Manual necessitates a 14-days notice be given to the convicts after the rejection of the mercy petition. “The fate of the death convicts comes into finality only on the rejection of the mercy petitions,” Mehra told the High Court.
Justice Manmohan during the course of arguments also pulled up the Delhi Police on the delays caused in the case. “Why was there so much of a delay in the issuance of the (first) notice to the convicts,” the Judge asked the Delhi Police counsel. “The house of the Delhi Police is in complete disarray” he stated, rising for lunch.