The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on January 22 moved the Supreme Court to frame guidelines to execute death penalty of condemned prisoners within seven days of rejection of their mercy petitions.
The move comes amid various pleas filed by convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape case that has delayed their hanging. The four convicts are on death row since 2013 after a trial court ruled against them. Multiple curative petitions and mercy pleas filed before the President of India have been rejected.
The MHA filed an application in the top court on January 22 to seek “appropriate clarification/modification and directions” in the 2014 Shatrughan Singh Chauhan and another vs Union of India judgment that defined the procedure to be adopted in cases of prisoners on death row.
The existing guidelines, the Ministry said, are “accused-centric”.
“These guidelines, however, do not take into account an irreparable mental trauma, agony, upheaval and derangement of the victims and their family members, the collective conscience of the nation and the deterrent effect which the capital punishment intends to make. It is found several years before and after the judgment in the Shatrughan case that convicts of even such heinous crimes under the garb of Article 21 take the judicial process for a ride,” the MHA said.
It sought a direction that “if the convict of death sentence wants to file mercy petition, it would be mandatory for a convict of death sentence to do so only within a period of seven days from the date of receipt of death warrant issued by the competent court”.
The MHA submitted that the court should “mandate all the competent courts, State governments, prison authorities in the country to issue death warrant of a convict within seven days of the rejection of his mercy petition and to execute death sentence within seven days thereafter irrespective of the stage of review petition/curative petition/mercy petition of his co-convicts”.
The MHA also pleaded that “it would be permissible for the death convicts to file curative petition after rejection of review petition only within a time to be stipulated by this Hon’ble Court and not thereafter”.
MHA submitted that while taking care of the rights of the convicts, it is more important and need of the hour to lay down guidelines in the interest of the victims, their families and in larger public interest. “…lest the guilty of such horrible, and dreadful, cruel, abominable, ghastly, gruesome and henious offences would be permitted to play with the majesty of law and prolonged the execution of the sentence awarded to them in accordance with the law,” MHA application said.
On December 18, 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed the review petition filed by Nirbhaya gangrape convict Akshay against its 2017 judgment upholding his death penalty. The top court in July 2018 dismissed the review petition of the other three convicts — Mukesh (30), Pawan Gupta (23) and Vinay Sharma (24) — in the case saying no grounds have been made out by them for review of the 2017 verdict.
A juvenile convict in the case has been released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term. One of the accused in the case, Ram Singh, died in the Tihar Jail.