HC reprimands Nirbhaya convict’s counsel on delaying tactics

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday reprimanded the legal team of Nirbhaya death row convict Mukesh over the delay in exercising the legal remedies available to them.

“You have waited for two-and-a-half years to file a curative and mercy petition? Criminal appeal was dismissed in 2017. After that, what took you so long to exercise your legal remedies? A clever litigant does that, he waits for the death warrant to be issued. When the execution date arrives, he files review, on the next death warrant he files curative,” observed a division bench of the high presided by Justices Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal.

The observation was made after senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Mukesh said, “After the dismissal of another convict Akshay’s review, a notice was issued to all the convicts. Even assuming that the notice served on me for filing mercy, the fact of the matter is that the trial court allowed the counsels to meet the convicts and in the meeting was regarding legal remedies. I have not even wasted a day to file a mercy petition.”

The arguments took place while the court was hearing a plea filed by the death row convict challenging the death order issued by Sessions Judge Satish Arora on December 7.

During the course of the hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Archaya said, “From 2017 they have made it a strategy to bring this to 2019. In 2017 criminal appeal is dismissed. Review is dismissed in 2018, again a review is filed by co-convict. They are going in stages and the argument they will bring is that from the dismissal of every latest petition, the period starts.”

As per the death warrant, the four convicts are scheduled to be hanged on January 22 at 7 a.m.

Filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, the petition challenges the issuance of death warrant on the ground that the convicts are still left with the remedy of seeking mercy from the President of India.

“The petitioner’s Constitutional right to seek mercy will be rendered infructuous if the execution warrant dated 7.1.2020 is not stayed,” Mukesh said in his petition filed through his lawyer A.P. Singh.

The plea sought directions for setting aside the trial court order and not to give effect to the order for execution of the death sentence on January 22.

The 23-year-old victim in the ‘Nirbhaya’ case was brutally gangraped and tortured on December 16, 2012, which later led to her death. All the six accused were arrested and charged with sexual assault and murder. One of the accused was a minor and appeared before a juvenile justice court, while another accused committed suicide in Tihar Jail.

Four of the convicts were sentenced to death by a trial court in September 2013, and the verdict was confirmed by the Delhi High Court in March 2014 and upheld by the Supreme Court in May 2017 which also dismissed their review petitions

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