President Ram Nath Kovind may have rejected the mercy plea of Mukesh Singh, only one of the four men convicted in the 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder case to have knocked on the president's door, but it may not yet be the end of the rope for him.
Mukesh (32), along with Vinay Sharma (26), Akshay Kumar Singh (31) and Pawan Gupta (25) -- were to be hanged on 22 January at 7 am in Tihar Jail, a Delhi court had announced on 7 January while issuing their death warrants.
Where is the scope of delay?
What threw a wrench in the process of hanging the four convicts were rules laid out in the manual of Tihar Jail, where the four men are held. The manual holds that if death sentence has been awarded to more than one person in a case and if one of them moves a mercy plea, the execution of the others too has to be postponed till the plea is decided.
The Constitution maintains that a death sentence should be the last course of punishment to be awarded only in the rarest of the rare cases, it lays down several layers of protection for the convict, keeping in view the finality of the punishment.
The Supreme Court has said the power of pardon exercised by the president or a governor under Articles 72 and 161 are subject to a judicial review. Their decision can be challenged on the ground that (a) it was passed without application of mind; (b) it is mala fide; (c) it was passed on extraneous or wholly irrelevant considerations; (d) relevant materials were kept out of consideration; (e) it suffers from arbitrariness.
The law also allows the convicts on death row to file a curative petition in Supreme Court against their sentence.
The Supreme Court had already dismissed the review petitions of Vinay, Pawan and Mukesh in July 2018. Akshay filed his review only in December 2019, which also was rejected. Following this, the convicts are entitled to file a curative petition in Supreme Court. However, Vinay and Mukesh have already exhausted this remedy and two others " Pawan and Akshay " are yet to move the Supreme Court with this plea.
If the duo decides to move the Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort, the hanging will again be suspended until they exhaust all available remedies.