The Supreme Court will on Wednesday pronounce its order on a petition filed by Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder convict –Mukesh Kumar Singh – challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by President Ram Nath Kovind. A three-judge bench of the apex court headed by Justice R Banumathi and comprising Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Ashok Bhushan reserved its verdict on the review plea of Mukesh on Tuesday and will be pronounced at 10.30 am on Wednesday.
Four convicts in the case – Pawan Kumar Gupta, Mukesh Kumar Singh, Vinay Kumar Sharma, and Akshay Kumar Singh – are facing execution on February 1 in the 2012 case. On Tuesday, while advocates Anjana Prakash and Rebecca John argued for Mukesh, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented the prosecution.
Initially, Senior Advocate Anjana Prakash urged the bench to invoke judicial conscience as to whether due consideration was given by the President in the mercy petition. Maintaining that presidential power was prone to human fallibility, she contended that pardon was not an act of grace but part of the Constitutional scheme. Moreover, she alleged that Mukesh had been kept in solitary confinement even before his mercy plea was rejected, which was in alleged violation of norms.
In an astonishing claim, Prakash stated that her client had been sexually abused in jail. Moreover, she claimed that co-accused Ram Singh had been murdered. Additionally, she said that the President had rejected his mercy plea without examining all relevant documents such as the trial court judgment. Advocate John pointed out that the President had rejected his petition only hours after the Ministry of Home Affairs forwarded it.
On the other hand, Mehta submitted an affidavit on the documents that were sent to the President. Stressing that the jurisdiction of the apex court was very limited in such a matter, he also mentioned that the allegations of abuse could not be a ground for granting mercy. Thereafter, the Solicitor General opined that it was dehumanizing to allow such delays. Despite the request of Mukesh’s advocates to peruse the documents pertaining to the rejection of mercy plea, the bench rejected this.
A 23-year-old paramedic student Nirbhaya was gang-raped inside a running bus by six persons on December 16, 2012, in Delhi. The victim was severely assaulted and thrown out on the road along with her male friend and succumbed to injuries a few days later. Out of the six convicts, one committed suicide in prison, while another, a juvenile, served maximum punishment of three years in a reform home and was set free in 2015. The remaining four rapists were convicted and handed the death penalty by a trial court in 2013, confirmed by the Delhi High Court in March 2014. The Supreme Court upheld the Delhi High Court's verdict in 2017.