The Centre reasoned that the convicts were trying to delay their execution to let them, at a later stage, come back to the court and request commuting the death sentence on grounds of delay in hanging.
The Supreme Court on Friday deferred a hearing on the appeal filed by the central and Delhi governments challenging a Delhi high court ruling that refused to tinker with the postponement of the execution of four death row convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang rape case.
A bench headed by justice R Banumathi observed that the Delhi high court had given 7 days’ time until when to convicts exhaust their remaining remedies and it would be appropriate for the top court to wait for a few more days for the convicts to pursue them.
The bench, therefore, kept the matter for hearing on February 11 and declined to issue notice to the convicts.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the central government, told the court that one of the convicts, Pawan Gupta, was yet to file his curative or mercy petition. He submitted that it was a calculated design by the convicts to delay their hanging so that then can later seek a commutation of the death penalty on grounds of a delay in the execution.
A 2014 judgment by the Supreme Court laid down that a delay in the hanging of a death convict could be one of the grounds for commutation of the death penalty to life imprisonment.
“Pawan Gupta can sit tight for 5 years without filing a mercy plea and then all four can come to court seeking commutation due to delay in hanging as laid down in the Shatrughan Chauhan judgment”, Mehta told the court.
The Delhi high court had on February 5 turned down a request by the Centre to hang at least two of the four convicts who had exhausted all their legal options. The high court, in its judgmen,t had cited a Supreme Court verdict in an “unfortunate” case where, after one convict was executed, the co-accused’s death sentence was commuted to life.
names of the four convicts and when they were ordered to be executed
“Convict Mukesh (who was the first to file a mercy petition) cannot be adversely segregated from the similarly placed convicts simply because he has been sincerely and earnestly pursuing his legal remedies,” Justice Suresh Kumar Kait of the Delhi high court ruled.
Hours after the high court delivered its ruling, the central and Delhi governments approached the Supreme Court, challenging the verdict.
In their appeal filed against the February 5 judgment of the Delhi high court, the Centre and Delhi governments told the apex court that the law does not mandate that all death row convicts in a case should be executed simultaneously.
They submitted that there was no legal impediment to the execution of death row convicts who had exhausted their legal remedies though co-convicts who have been sentenced in the same case have not availed all their legal options.
The petition pointed out that a convict who has exhausted all his remedies cannot frustrate the mandate of law merely because the mercy petition of one of the co-convicts is pending before the President and another co-convict has chosen not to even file a mercy petition.