In the latest development, the Supreme Court on March 23 will hear the petition filed by the central government which sought separate execution of the four Nirbhaya convicts. In February, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved to the Delhi High Court against Patiala House Court order staying the February 1 hanging of Nirbhaya rapists. The plea was rejected by the Delhi HC as well after which MHA moved to the Supreme Court. A three-judge bench headed by Justice R Banumathi is said to hear the plea.
The Centre had challenged Delhi HC's order rejecting its plea for separately executing the four convicts in the case in the apex court. In the SC, the Centre contended that under the Delhi Prison Rules of 2018, the pendency of legal remedies or mercy petitions of other co-convicts would have no bearing on the fate of a convict whose plea for mercy has already been rejected. The 2018 Rules does not prohibit the execution of death sentence of co-convicts, one by one, on the rejection of their respective mercy petitions, Centre has said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stated that, "The convicts have taken the system for a ride," and that they were trying to make a mockery of the judicial system with one petition or another to get the matter delayed.
Issuing a fresh date, the Patiala House Court on Thursday ordered that the Nirbhaya rape and murder case convicts are to be hanged till death on March 20, 5:30 AM. Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana has ordered the fresh date of execution against the four convicts. The judge also directed that convicts counsel AP Singh and Ravi Qazi are allowed to meet them in the prison as per the Standard Operating Procedures of the Tihar prison. This is the fourth death warrant issued in the matter.
By now, mercy petitions of all convicts in the case have been rejected by the President. However, a "complete" mercy petition of convict Akshay Singh Thakur was recently filed claiming that the previous one, which was turned down by the President on February 5, did not have "complete facts".