Union minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday blamed the Delhi government’s “negligence” for the delay in execution of the four death-row convicts in the 2012 gangrape case, PTI reported. He said it took more than two and a half years for the Aam Aadmi Party government to give notices to the accused after the Supreme Court rejected their appeal against the death sentence in 2017.

Addressing a press conference in Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader said the convicts would have been hanged by now had the AAP government given notices to them within a week of the top court order. “AAP is responsible for the delay in justice,” he added.

The AAP lashed out at the BJP in response, saying law and order comes under the Centre’s ambit. “Give us Delhi Police and law-and-order responsibility for two days and we will hang Nirbhaya convicts,” said Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. He highlighted that even the Tihar Jail administration was under the Centre but the Union minister was blaming AAP. Sisodia said: “Please don’t stoop so low on a sensitive issue.”

The party’s leader Sanjay Singh accused the the saffron party of lying to mislead the people. “Whatever delay is taking place, the BJP is responsible and that is why instead of misleading people, the Union minister should apologise for ignoring such a sensitive matter,” Singh said.

Meanwhile, a Tihar jail official told PTI that all the four convicts had been shifted on Thursday to jail number three where their hanging will take place.

The Delhi government had on Wednesday recommended rejecting the mercy petition filed by Mukesh Singh, one of the death-row convicts in the case. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had said the state government had forwarded the plea to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal at “lightning speed”.

Singh had filed the mercy plea before President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday, hours after his curative petition against death penalty was rejected by the Supreme Court. He had also filed a petition against the death warrant in the Delhi High Court, which was rejected earlier on Wednesday.

Singh and three other convicts – Vinay Sharma, Akshay Singh and Pawan Gupta – were scheduled to be hanged at 7 am on January 22. But they are not likely to be hanged till Singh’s mercy petition is decided, the Delhi government and Tihar jail authorities told the High Court on Wednesday.

The case

The four men, and two others, raped and brutally assaulted a 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 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.

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. Akshay Kumar Singh filed a review plea last month, but it was also rejected by the top court.

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, however, recommended that his mercy petition be rejected.