NEW DELHI: Realising that not much time is left after the issuance of black warrants, the four death-row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case immediately turned active and started filing various petitions before different forums making last attempts to escape the gallows or at least delay the hanging.
The convicts, who did not seek any further action after the Supreme Court dismissed their appeals challenging their death penalty and review pleas of three of them in May 2017 and July 2018, vigorously started pursuing the legal remedies left to them from January 7 onwards as a trial court had fixed January 20 for their hanging.
The first death warrant was issued on January 7 by the trial court after almost two years since the Supreme Court dismissed their appeals.
The convicts — Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Singh — left no stone unturned to delay their execution and kept approaching different courts and forums almost on a daily basis in the last two-and-a half months.
Two days after the first death warrant, Vinay and Mukesh filed their curative pleas in the apex court claiming that grounds like ailing parents and good conduct in jail have not been adequately considered. But the pleas were rejected by the top court.
Mukesh was the first one to file his mercy plea before President Ram Nath Kovind who rejected it on January 17.
However, this led to deferment of the hanging to February 1, as they were yet to exhaust all legal and constitutional remedies.
As per the Delhi Prison Rules, if a mercy petition is submitted, a 14-day period has to be given to the convict after its dismissal.
On January 25, Mukesh moved the apex court against rejection of his mercy plea.
As the next hanging date was nearing, that is, February 1, Akshay rushed to the top court with his curative plea which was also dismissed the next day.
Meanwhile, Pawan filed a plea in the apex court for review of its order rejecting his juvenility claim.
Vinay too filed his mercy plea on January 29 due to which the trial court had to postpone the execution. The court this time postponed the death warrants till further order.
Days later on February 11, he moved the top court challenging rejection of his mercy plea. It was dismissed.
Besides resorting to filing their curative and mercy pleas one after the other to delay their hanging, they also moved courts with different prayers.
Vinay also made a last-ditch effort to escape the gallows claiming that the relevant records were not brought before the President including the fact that he had been subjected to torture and ill-treated in jail due to which he had developed mental illness.
The Centre opposed his claim with a medical report of February 12, showing he was fit and has a sound mind.
Efforts were also made by Mukesh to stall the execution by moving court with the prayer that he does not want to be represented by advocate Vrinda Grover, who was appointed as amicus curiae to take up his case.
Again on February 17, the trial court issued fresh death warrants for March 3.
On February 20, Vinay’s counsel also moved court seeking better treatment for his claimed mental illness, schizophrenia and head and arm injuries. However, the prison officials told the court that Vinay injured himself by banging his head against a wall of his cell.
His plea was dismissed on February 22 by the trial court which said he was “malingering” and “desires himself to be falsely diagnosed mentally ill”.
Thereafter, Pawan filed curative plea in the apex court on February 28 and the next day, he along with Akshay sought stay on the execution on March 3.
On March 2, the apex court dismissed Pawan’s curative plea, following which he filed a mercy plea just one day before the scheduled hanging date.
The trial court had to defer the hanging for the third time.
Finally on March 5, the court fixed March 20, 5:30 AM for their execution after the President rejected Pawan’s mercy plea also.
It had issued the fresh date after it was informed that the convicts have exhausted all the remedies.
But their counsel continued with their delaying tactics as Mukesh moved a plea in the top court seeking restoration of all his legal remedies, alleging that his lawyers had misled him. It was rejected by the court on March 16.
In the meantime, Pawan filed a plea for lodging of an FIR against two police constables for allegedly assaulting him in Mandoli jail last year.
Just four days before the scheduled hanging, three of them moved the International Court of Justice at Hague to stay their “unlawful execution”, alleging “flawed” probe.
On March 17, Mukesh moved court seeking quashing of the death penalty on the ground that he was not in Delhi at the time of the crime.
It was dismissed by trial court as well as the Delhi High Court. The trial court even asked the Bar Council of India to provide appropriate sensitisation exercise to his counsel.
In a last-ditch effort, Pawan moved the apex court with a curative petition against the dismissal of his review plea rejecting his juvenility claim, but it was dismissed.
Akshay and Pawan have also filed review mercy pleas before the President which have not been entertained on the ground that their first mercy petitions were entertained and considered on merits.
On March 18, while Pawan, Vinay and Akshay moved the Delhi court seeking stay on the execution of the death penalty.
The convicts did not budge and even filed pleas in courts on a day prior to their hanging but failed to get any relief.