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Mercy Petition of Nirbhaya Convict Vinay Sharma Rejected; Another Approaches President

File photo of the convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case

File photo of the convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case

Mukesh Kumar Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Kumar Sharma and Akshay Thakur, who are lodged in Tihar jail, were ordered to be hanged on February 1 at 6am.

President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday rejected the mercy petition of Nirbhaya convict Vinay Sharma, a day after a Delhi court indefinitely postponed the execution of all convicts after they sought a stay on their hanging. Soon after the development, another convict, Akshay Thakur, filed a mercy petition before the Presdient.

Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Thakur (31), who are lodged in Tihar jail, were ordered to be hanged on February 1 at 6am.

With Advocate AP Singh, the counsel for Pawan, Vinay and Akshay contending that their legal remedies were yet to be exhausted, the hanging date remains uncertain.

As of now, only Mukesh has exhausted all his legal remedies including the clemency plea which was dismissed by President Ram Nath Kovind on January 17 and the appeal against the rejection was thrown out by the Supreme Court on January 29.

Reacting in anguish to the delay in the hanging, Nirbhaya's mother Asha Devi said she will continue her fight till the convicts are hanged.

Devi told reporters her "hopes are dashed" but she will continue her fight till the convicts are hanged.

"These convicts have no right to live. We keep getting disappointed by the system. I will continue my fight till the convicts are hanged," she said.

This is for the second time that the execution of the death warrants has been deferred. The first order for execution of death sentence, issued on January 7 for January 22, was stayed on January 17. The second warrant, issued on January 17, for February 1 was stayed on Friday.

The Tihar jail authorities challenged the application of the convicts, saying it was not maintainable and they can be hanged separately. But the argument was not accepted by the court.

The convicts' lawyer argued that rules dictate that when one convict's plea is pending the others cannot be hanged.

In the order, the judge noted that if an appeal or an application is made by only one convict, the execution of sentence shall be postponed in the case of co-convicts also.

"Without commenting upon the dilatory tactics adopted by the convicts, suffice it would be to state that seeking redressal of one's grievances through procedure established by law is the hallmark of any civilised society. The courts of this country cannot afford to adversely discriminate any convict, including death row convict, in pursuit of his legal remedies, by turning a Nelson's eye towards him."

"As a cumulative effect of the aforesaid discussion, I am of the considered opinion that the execution of warrants issued by this court vide order dates January 17, 2020 deserves to be postponed till further orders," the judge said.

The delay in the hanging prompted junior home minister G Kishan Reddy to say there must be a debate on how the convicts in heinous crimes continue to delay execution of death penalty by exploring the judicial process even after the Supreme Court upholds their conviction.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said it is sad that the convicts are "escaping death sentence" by using legal loopholes, stressing that there is an urgent need to amend the laws to ensure hanging in cases of rape within six months.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, agreed to examine the Centre's plea for laying down victim and society-centric guidelines in heinous offence cases where death penalty has been awarded.

A 23-year-old physiotherapy intern who came to be known as "Nirbhaya" (the fearless one) was gang-raped and savagely assaulted on the night of December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in South Delhi.

She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital.