Explained: Why Nirbhaya’s killers are unlikely to hang on March 3 as well

Vicky Nanjappa

New Delhi, Feb 18: On Monday yet another death warrant was issued to execute the killers of Nirbhaya. The Delhi court said that the killers, Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta shall be hanged on March 3 at 6 am.

The judge, Dharmender Rana said in a six page order that putting off the date of execution any further would be sacrilegious to the rights of the victim for expeditious justice.

This is incidentally the third death warrant to be issued by the court. The earlier warrants were issued for January 22 and February 1. The hanging had to be put off in the wake of the killers filing mercy petitions and moving the Supreme Court also.

Nirbhaya convicts to be hanged on March 3 at 6 am

The question now is will this be the last death warrant. It is unlikely because if one of the killers files a mercy petition or exercises his option to file a curative plea in the Supreme Court the death warrant will have to be stayed.

It may be recalled that the High Court had earlier this month, rejected the plea of the Centre that the Tihar jail authorities should be ordered to execute the convicts who do not have any appeal pending.

Legal experts say that this would mean that unless the Supreme Court sets aside the provision of the convicts being hanged together, a separate hanging cannot take place.

Pawan Gupta is yet to file a mercy petition. His counsel informed the Delhi court on Monday that Gupta intends to file a mercy petition and also a curative petition. The counsel also said that his client was unaware of the seven day time frame that was granted by the Delhi High Court earlier this month.

Further advocate, A P Singh representing Vinay and Mukesh said that he would be filing a second mercy petition for Thakur. This is because the earlier one did not have the records of his financial status. The law states that a death row convict can file more than one mercy plea on the ground that the new one is based on new material which was not available earlier.

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Judge, Rana Sais that Article 21 merely guarantees an opportunity to the condemned convicts to exercise their legal rights. Whether to utilise it or not is a matter to be decided by the condemned convict. Gupta had indicated that he was not filing a mercy or curative petition. The court said that Gupta cannot be permitted to defeat the ends of justice by simply opting to remain indolent. There also cannot be any quarrel with the proposition that protection under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is available to the convicts till their last breath, the judge also said.

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