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Nirbhaya: Convict’s counsel cites mental illness; order reserved

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New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved the judgement on the petition filed by Vinay Sharma, one of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya case, challenging the rejection of his mercy plea by the President.

A bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and A.S. Bopanna will pronounce the verdict on Friday.

Advocate A.P. Singh, representing Vinay Sharma, made some critical allegations on the decision of the President to reject his client’s mercy plea. “The President of India adopted pick and choose formula that is why the mercy petition was dismissed…the Republic was biased in rejecting the mercy plea…and the bifurcation of crime and categorical conviction have not been done so far,” contended Singh before the bench.

This argument evoked sharp criticism from the court and the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Centre on the matter.

Singh also submitted relevant documents in connection with his client’s mental state were not placed before the President. Singh contended Sharma was undergoing psychological problems due to ill-treatment and solitary confinement in jail, which was in violation of the prison norms.

Singh cited the Supreme Court’s 2014 judgement in Shatrughan Chauhan, which held that death sentences of convicts suffering from mental illness should be commuted.

Mehta contested these arguments. “He was regularly checked, which is part of routine check-ups. There is a jail psychiatrist, who checks everybody. He is found to be in good health as per the latest medical report”, submitted Mehta before the court.

Mehta also told the court that the Ministry of Home Affairs examined all the documents related to the case and concluded it falls under the rarest of the rare category. “Everybody has applied their mind, and we have not considered any material which is extraneous…after this, the President rejected his mercy plea”, contended Mehta before the court.

Sharma had moved the top court on February 11, the final day of the seven-day deadline granted by Delhi High Court to all accused to exhaust legal remedies.

Meanwhile, the apex court also deferred the hearing on Centre’s plea seeking separate execution of four convicts in the case to Friday. The court has asked the convicts to file their replies. The bench has appointed senior advocate Anjana Prakash as amicus curiae to represent the convict Pawan Kumar Gupta.

The matter was deferred in the backdrop of a trial court order on Wednesday, directing the District Legal Services Authority to provide Gupta’s father with a list of its empanelled advocates, and asked him to choose one to represent his son. He is the lone convict who is yet to file a curative petition — the last legal remedy for a convict and it is decided in-chamber –and mercy plea before the President.



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