New Delhi: All legal routes to escape the noose closed on Thursday for the four men convicted in the Nirbhaya gangrape case who are now hours away from being hanged, seven years-three months after brutalising a young woman in a Delhi bus with a barbarity that shook the nation.
Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31), held guilty for gangraping a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern in Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012 so savagely that she died of her injuries a fortnight later, will be executed in Tihar Jail at 5.30 am on Friday.
Their death warrants have been deferred by a court thrice on the grounds that they had not exhausted all their legal remedies and that the mercy petition of one or the other was before the president.
On Thursday, however, all the legal routes seemed to have closed for the four men.
The Supreme Court refused to entertain Mukesh Singh's last ditch plea that he was not in the city when the crime took place. A bench of Justices of R Bhanumati, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna said he had exhausted all his remedies and no fresh evidence can be entertained.
The apex court also dismissed Akshay Kumar's plea challenging the rejection of his second mercy petition by President Ram Nath Kovind, saying no ground was made out for a judicial review of the decision.
On a parallel track, a Delhi court dismissed the pleas of Akshay Kumar, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma seeking stays on their execution.
With just hours to go for the execution and no legal hurdle left, Nirbhaya's mother Asha Devi said her daughter's soul will now rest in peace.
"Finally the convicts will be hanged. Now I will get peace," Asha Devi told PTI.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Akshay Kumar's wife Puneeta Devi fainted outside the Patiala House court and said she and her minor son should be hanged along with him.
"I want justice too. Kill me too. I do not want to live. My husband is innocent," Puneeta said beating herself with sandals.
She recently filed a divorce petition before a Bihar family court, saying she did not wish to live with the label of "a rapist's widow".
In south Delhi's slum colony Ravidas Camp, Vinay Sharma's mother fearfully -- and angrily -- counted the hours.
"What will you write now? Has anything happened till now with your writing? If god wants he will be saved," she lashed out at a journalist.
"It is all god's wish. Look at the coronavirus. It is god who decides everything -- who lives and who dies. It is beyond the control of any human," she said.
The slum colony, which represents the capital's seamy underbelly, just next to the upscale government colony of R K Puram, was home to four of the six men convicted of the crime.
While the widowed mother of brothers Ram Singh and Mukesh Singh has left the locality and gone back to her family in Rajasthan, the families of Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta still live in the slum colony.
The family of Pawan Gupta sells fruits to make a living and refused to talk.
On Thursday evening, Tihar Jail also did its prep.
Seven years after the execution of Afzal Guru, it got ready for the hanging of the four men after several dummy runs and officials brushing up on details specified in the jail manual.
This is the first time that four men will be hanged together in Tihar Jail, South Asia's largest prison complex that houses more than 16,000 inmates.
A senior prison official said Pawan Jallad, a hangman from Meerut, reported to the Tihar Jail administration on Tuesday evening to prepare for the exercise.
According to the jail manual, the jail superintendent will oversee the testing of the ropes and also inspect the gallows a day before the execution.
The execution, specifies the Delhi Prison Rules 2018, will take place in the presence of the superintendent, deputy superintendent, medical officer in charge, resident medical officer and the district magistrate or additional district magistrate.
A guard of not less than 10 constables, warders and two head constables, head warders or an equal number from the prison armed guard, will also be present, it states.
The families of the prisoner will not be allowed to witness the executions. All other prisoners will be kept locked till the exercise is over and the bodies removed from the prison.
The execution of the four convicts brings the curtains down on the case that shook not just India but also the world with the details of its brutality.
The widespread protests subsequently paved the way for a change in India's rape laws.
Two other men were convicted for the crime. Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide inside Tihar Jail in 2013 while the trial was still on and the sixth, a juvenile, was released in 2015 after spending three years in a correctional home.