A court in Delhi on Wednesday refused to immediately issue warrants to execute the four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case, and directed Tihar Jail authorities to ask them if they were planning to file mercy pleas before President Ram Nath Kovind, PTI reported.

Additional Sessions Judge Satish Kumar Arora, who heard the Delhi government’s plea to issue the warrants, said he would wait for a copy of the Supreme Court’s order dismissing convict Akshay Kumar Singh’s review petition.

The mother of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student who was gangraped and murdered broke down outside the local court after the hearing was postponed to January 7. “The convicts have been given one more chance,” she said. “Why are their rights being considered? What about our rights?”

She pointed out that her family had been fighting the case for seven years, and accused the court of not considering their rights while taking this decision. “There is no guarantee that a final judgement will be delivered on the next hearing as well,” she added.

She had expressed her unhappiness with the decision in the court too. The judge consoled her and said he had “full sympathy” but was bound to follow the law, according to which fresh notices have to be issued for the execution of the four. “I know someone has died but there are their [convicts] rights too,” Arora said. “We are here to listen to you but are also bound by the law.”

The victim’s father said they will not be satisfied till the death warrants are issued. “We have had a painful journey,” he told reporters. “The Supreme Court has rejected the review plea but we will not be happy till the time the Patiala House court issues death warrant. The entire country wants justice for her.”

The case

Six men raped and brutally assaulted the 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012. She succumbed to injuries two weeks later at a hospital in Singapore. The gangrape triggered huge protests in the national Capital and across India.

One of the convicts died in prison, while a minor was sent to a detention home for juveniles. He was released in December 2015. The four others were awarded the death penalty by a trial court in September 2013. The ruling was upheld by the Delhi High Court six months later and the Supreme Court in May 2017.

Three of the four – Vinay Sharma, Mukesh Singh and Pawan Gupta – filed review petitions against the punishment, but the Supreme Court rejected them in July 2018. In December 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking the immediate execution of the four.

In October, Tihar jail officials informed the four convicts that they had exhausted all their options for legal recourse, and were only left with the choice to file a mercy petition before the president of India. Their deadline was November 5. Of the four, only Vinay Sharma filed a petition. The Delhi government recommended that his mercy petition be rejected.

In his plea, Singh made bizarre arguments against the death penalty, mentioning already-shortened life spans due to poor quality of air and water in the Capital. The 32-year-old referred to the Puranas, the Vedas and Upanishads, and the example of Mahatma Gandhi to argue against his sentence.