New Delhi: A Delhi court on Monday stayed the execution of the four convicts and deferred the matter for further orders in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case. The convicts were scheduled to be hanged at 6 am on Tuesday.
The court deferred the matter as the mercy petition of one of the convicts, Pawan Kumar Gupta, is pending before President Ram Nath Kovind.
The execution of their death warrants has now been deferred thrice due to delays in exhausting legal remedies.
Asha Devi, Nirbhaya's mother, said the convicts are misleading the courts, but asserted that she trusts the justice system.
Tihar Jail officials said they had made all necessary preparations for the execution that was deferred -- this included calling a hangman and carrying out dummy executions.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana said the death sentence cannot be executed pending disposal of Pawan's mercy petition.
"Despite stiff resistance from the victim's side, I am of the opinion that any condemned convict must not meet his Creator with a grievance in his bosom that the courts of the country have not acted fairly in granting him an opportunity to exhaust his legal remedies," the judge said.
"As a cumulative effect of the discussion, I am of the opinion that the death sentence cannot be executed pending the disposal of the mercy petition of the convict. It is hereby directed that the execution of death warrants against all the convicts, scheduled for March 3 at 6am, is deferred till further orders," added Rana.
While reserving judgment on Pawan's fresh plea to stay his death warrant, Rana earlier rapped the convict's lawyer for acting so late in filing the curative and mercy pleas. Pawan's curative plea was rejected by the Supreme Court earlier in the day.
The trial court had earlier in the day dismissed Pawan's and Akshay Kumar Singh's applications for staying their death warrants.
However, Pawan's lawyer, AP Singh, said he has filed a mercy plea and the execution ought to be stayed. The court, thereafter, asked him to come after lunch to argue his case.
In the post-lunch hearing, the court pulled up Singh saying, "You are playing with fire, you should be cautious", adding, "One wrong move by anybody, and you know the consequences."
Tihar authorities, during the hearing, said the ball is in the government's court after filing of the mercy petition and the judge has no role for now. They said the President will seek a status report from the jail on Pawan's mercy plea and when that happens, it will suo motu stay the execution.
(With inputs from PTI)