New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) While hearing a plea in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday held that “so long as life lasts, so long shall it be the duty and endeavour of the court to give to the provisions of our Constitution a meaning which will prevent human suffering and degradation.”
“It cannot be disputed that all convicts have been found to be guilty of a horrible, ghastly, gruesome and heinous offence of rape coupled with a bone chilling murder of a young girl which shocked the conscience of the society at large. However, so long as life lasts, so long shall it be the duty and endeavour of the court to give to the provisions of our Constitution a meaning which will prevent human suffering and degradation.
“Therefore, Article 21 is as much relevant at the stage of execution of the death sentence as it is in the interregnum between the imposition of that sentence and its execution,” observed Justice Suresh Kumar Kait.
The observations came when the court was hearing a plea filed by the Centre challenging a trial court order which stayed the death warrants issued against the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case.
While dealing with the said petitionm the court noted that “the convicts have adopted all the delay tactics to frustrate the warrants.”
Considering the same, the court directed the four death row convicts — Mukesh, Pawan, Akshay and Vinay — to take steps if they wished to make any type of petition before any institution/authority available under the law within one week from Wednesday.
Failing which the court expects the institution/authority concerned to deal with them as per the law applicable without any further delay, Kait said.
During the course of arguments, which took place on Saturday and Sunday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had contended that the trial court order provided a perverse and misleading interpretation of Rule 836 of the Delhi Prison Rules.
“This error goes to the root of the issue. It deserves to be stayed. Every convict is enjoying defeating the judicial system in the country. Convicts are exploiting the process of law,” Mehta said.
“There is a deliberate, well-calculated and well-thought out design to frustrate the process of law,” he said.
The Centre also submitted before the court that the four convicts can be hanged separately. “The execution should be one by one. The rule only says that if the application of one convict is pending, then the execution of others has to be postponed. But what does ‘application’ mean? It means an application pending before a court. A mercy plea is not an application,” Mehta had submitted.
Opposing the submissions of the Centre, senior advocate Rebecca John argued that the Central government did not have any locus standi to challenge the stay imposed on the convicts’ hanging as it was not a party to the matter in the trial court and has merely superimposed itself in it.
“From 2018 to January 2020, the Union of India was never a party to the case. It is my submission that it has superimposed itself in this matter. What is their locus standi? We do not know,” she submitted.
On the demand for piece-meal execution of those convicts who have exhausted their legal options, John said, “One common order was passed for all the convicts. The question is can execution take place one by one? When sentencing is common, order is common, then how can this happen?”
She said that her client is entitled to avail all the remedies under the shadow of Article 21 of the Constitution, which reads: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.”
Two of the convicts, Mukesh and Vinay, have exhausted their legal remedies, while President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday rejected the mercy petition of Akshay.
Pawan has not yet filed a mercy petition, which is his last Constitutional resort. He has also not availed the remedy of curative petition, which is the last judicial resort.