Akshay Kumar Singh, one of the four men convicted of raping a 23-year-old paramedical student in New Delhi in 2012, filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on Tuesday against the death sentence given to him and the other convicts, the Hindustan Times reported. In his plea, the 32-year-old referred to the Puranas, the Vedas and Upanishads, and the example of Mahatma Gandhi to argue against the punishment.
Singh asked the Supreme Court why it was continuing to sentence convicts to death, claiming that lives were already getting shorter. The convict claimed that the time of “Satyayug”, when people lived long lives, was now over.
“Why death penalty when age is reducing...it is mentioned in our Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads that...people lived the life of thousand years...now it is Kalyug, in this era, age of human beings has reduced much [in life span],” the plea said, according to NDTV. “It has now come to 50-60 years...this is almost a true analysis...when a person faces stark realities of life, then he is no better than a dead body.”
Singh’s petition also pointed to air pollution and unclean water in Delhi. “Everyone is aware of what is happening in Delhi NCR [National Capital Region] in regard to water and air,” Singh said. “Life is going from short to shorter, then why death penalty?”
“The death penalty is the premeditated and cold blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice,” he said. Singh claimed that the institution of capital punishment is an effort by the government to “promote simplistic responses to complex human problems rather than pursuing their root causes”. The plea also sought reforms in the criminal justice system and argued that the certainty, not severity, of punishment was an effective deterrent against crimes.
The plea also quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to people faced with difficult questions in life: “Recall the face of the poorest and most helpless man whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to gain anything by it?”
Courts have already rejected pleas from three other convicts – Vinay Kumar, Mukesh Singh and Pawan Gupta.
Six men had raped and brutally assaulted the 23-year-old student in a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012. The woman succumbed to her injuries two weeks later at a hospital in Singapore. A convict who was a minor at the time of the incident was released in December 2015 after serving three years in a detention home for juveniles, while one convict died in prison. The four other convicts were awarded the death penalty. They are currently lodged in Tihar Jail in Delhi.