Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Monday said a petition filed by one of the convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang rape case challenging the rejection of his mercy plea by President Ram Nath Kovind should be “top priority” since the execution is scheduled for February 1, NDTV reported. “If somebody is going to be hanged then nothing can be more urgent than this,” The Indian Express quoted Bobde as saying before instructing the convict’s counsel to mention the matter to the top court’s registry.

The petition had been filed on January 25 “under Article 32 for judicial review of the manner of rejection of the mercy petition in terms of the judgement of Supreme Court in Shatrughan Chauhan case”, according to the convict’s advocate Vrinda Grover.

On January 14, the Supreme Court had refused to hear the curative petitions of Mukesh Singh and Vinay Sharma, another convict in the case. Following this, Singh sought mercy from President Kovind, who rejected it. Singh also moved the Delhi High Court to set aside the death warrant issued by a trial court.

Sharma, Mukesh Singh, Akshay Kumar Singh and Pawan Gupta were to be hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail on January 22, but it was deferred because of Singh’s mercy plea. The executions are now scheduled for 6 am on February 1.

The four 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 the 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 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.

Sharma, Mukesh Singh and Pawan Gupta filed review petitions against the punishment, but the Supreme Court rejected them in July 2018. Akshay Kumar Singh’s review plea was rejected last month.

The rape victim’s mother has criticised the state and central governments for the inordinate delay in executing the convicts. The Centre last week moved the Supreme Court seeking more victim-centric rules in such cases, and sought a time limit for convicts to use the last legal options available to them.