After CJI Bobde recused himself from the hearing of review petition by Nirbhaya case convict Akshay Singh, the new bench today dismisses the petition on grounds of no error found on the “face of the record.”
The new bench headed by Justice R Banumathi and comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna hears the review petition of Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder convict Akshay Kumar Singh today after Chief Justice S A Bobde recused himself from the case on Tuesday. In the 30 minutes given to Singh's advocate A P Singh, he submitted a varied range of arguments protecting the convict arguing Delhi's pollution-reducing life expectancy, inefficacy in the police investigation, media and public pressure for executing his client etc.
SG asks convicts’ lawyer to submit plea within seven days
Advocate AP Singh has sought three weeks’ time from the Supreme Court to file mercy plea before the President to exercise legal remedies however SG Tushar Mehta stated that the law allows convict to file mercy plea within seven days. The bench did not express any view on this. However, it said, “Within the ambit of law, if the relief of mercy petition is available to the petitioner, he may avail the same.”
“We definitely feel relieved as the strong ground for delay was because of the review petition not being filed. Now we are completely free from SC proceedings. Now we wait for the result of mercy petitions going to be pending from the President's office and then the court will pronounce a date for the death sentence of the convicts"
He opened his submissions by stating that he has new facts, “There has been inefficiency to catch the real perpetrators. Lack of professional conduct and inefficiency by investigation has led to this,” said A P Singh. He referred to the Ryan International School sexual harassment case wherein the bus conductor was forcefully implicated due to public pressure. He also raised concern over the sole witness, the woman's friend who was also there with her when the crime happened in 2012 and said that a case of bribery has been filed against him but the bench dismissed it by questioning its relevance with this case.
Advocate Singh also alleged suspicion over the suicide of prime suspect in the case, Ram Singh, who committed suicide in March 2013, claiming that he was murdered. He based his argument on a book, “Black Warrant” authored by eminent journalist Sunetra Choudhary, which recorded some facts written by Sunil Gupta, a retired law officer of Tihar Jail. To this, Justice Bopanna says, “After trial, if an author writes a book that this and that was done, it is a dangerous trend. Anyone can say things after trial. Why didn't he (Gupta) present himself for evidence?”
Singh appealed that there are many other cases where the crime was more heinous, and the convicts are in Tihar. This case is being targeted to further political agenda, he says. Advocate Singh then moves towards apprising the bench of Delhi's polluted air and contaminated water forcing people out of the city. He argues, “We have been advised to go out of Delhi due to pollution. Then why grant Singh death penalty? Let him stay in custody.”
Singh also contended that victim's dying declaration must not be taken into consideration in the court since she took the name of Akshay after Vipin but no one named Vipin was found accused. However, one of the convicts is named Vinay Sharma who she may have mistaken for Vipin during her final declaration.
“We've considered these arguments in detail. There was special hearing on some of these points. SC upheld death. What can we do?” counters Justice R Banumathi.
SG response to convicts’ lawyer’s
Finally, Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General, denounces the arguments made by Singh and says that all arguments used by convict's advocate have already been used in the review petitions of other convicts in the case as well. He said that these are being used all over again in a verbatim manner. “Court has held this to be a rarest of rare case,” he adds.
Mehta produces his last counter-argument, “There are crimes when humanity is put to shame. There are crimes when God cries that this girl could not be saved, and also that monsters were born. There can be no mercy in such a case.”
Nirbhay’s defence feels relieved
Nirbhaya lawyer Seema Samruddhi comment to SheThePeople.TV , “We definitely feel relieved as the strong ground for delay was because of the review petition not being filed. Now we are completely free from SC proceedings. Now we wait for the result of mercy petitions going to be pending from the President's office and then the court will pronounce a date for the death sentence of the convicts. The court has denied three-weeks' time to the convict to file mercy plea. In fact, the court wasn't even in favour of giving them seven-days' time but since the Delhi Jail Manual entitles them to a week's time to file mercy plea so we will wait for that.”
On asking about the delay in the filing of Mercy petition by the rest of the convicts since their review plea was dismissed, she says, “that it was the state's negligence in issuing a notice to the convicts. The state should have taken the initiative but it failed."
While Singh had filed the review petition last week, another convict Vinay Sharma filed mercy petition at the beginning of the month. On December 13, Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi had also appealed to the apex court that she be heard too when the bench is hearing Singh’s review petition to which the court had relented.
“There are crimes when humanity is put to shame. There are crimes when God cries that this girl could not be saved, and also that monsters were born. There can be no mercy in such a case.”
Background of the case
In July 2018, the Supreme Court had heard the review petition of the other three convicts in the case – Mukesh, 30, Pawan Gupta, 23 and Vinay Sharma, 24 – and rejected all of them. During the hearing, Singh was also present and the bench had repeatedly asked him if he would also like to file his review petition but he had refused back then.
A 23-year-old physiotherapy student named Jyoti Singh Pandey aka Nirbhaya exited a South Delhi mall at around 10.30 in the night after watching a movie with a male friend in December 2012. The male friend and Jyoti took a bus to reach home. The bus had only six people inside, including the driver and conductor, who first beat up the friend and then brutally gang-raped Jyoti in the moving bus. They, then, threw Jyoti out on the road.