The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict in a petition filed by Mukesh Kumar Singh, one of the four death-row convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case, LiveLaw reported. Singh has challenged President Ram Nath Kovind’s rejection of his mercy plea. Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna will deliver their verdict on Wednesday.
Senior advocate Anjana Prakash, who represented Singh, referred to judgements on the death sentence and the power of the president to grant mercy. Prakash urged the bench to invoke “judicial conscience” to decide if due consideration was given to Singh’s mercy petition. She said even presidential power was open to human fallibility, quoting a Supreme Court judgement from 1989.
“Even the most trained mind is susceptible,” Prakash said. “When it comes to denying life and personal liberty, it should be subject to another high authority. Pardon is not a private act of grace, but a part of the constitutional scheme.” She said presidential pardon is a great responsibility which must be exercised keeping in mind the good of the people.
Prakash claimed that Singh’s testimony showed that only the DNA of two other accused, Ram Singh and Akshay Kumar Singh, was found on the woman. When asked by the bench why she was going into the merits of the case, Prakash said that the judgement of the trial court was not placed before the president when the mercy plea was filed. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government, said that all documents had been presented before Kovind.
Justice Banumathi said the petitioner should not have been kept in solitary confinement in jail after senior advocate Rebecca John submitted records establishing it.
“After the filing of the mercy petition, the recommendation for the rejection of the same from the Ministry of Home Affairs and concerned authorities came at a ‘lightning speed’, but on what documents was this recommendation made?” Prakash asked.
Mehta submitted an affidavit before the court on what was given as records to president.
Claims of sexual abuse
Prakash also that claimed that Singh was sexually abused in jail and another accused Ram Singh was murdered. “Courts only sentenced me to death..was I sentenced to be raped,” the lawyer read from Singh’s petition. “I haven’t been able to sleep in 5 years. When I manage to sleep, I dream of death and beating.”
Addressing the allegations of sexual abuse in prison, Mehta said they cannot be a ground for mercy. “It is not a luxury jurisdiction that though I’m guilty of this heinous crime, since I was ill treated, I should be given mercy,” he said.
He added that Singh mingled with others in the yard and was treated as per the rules.
The trial court has issued black warrants for the execution of all the four convicts – Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Kumar Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh – at 6 am on February 1.
Mukesh Singh had filed the petition on January 25 under Article 32 of the Constitution for judicial review of “the manner of rejection of the mercy petition”, according to his advocate Vrinda Grover. Singh’s petition was listed on Monday before SA Bobde, who said it should be “top priority” since the execution is scheduled for February 1. “If somebody is going to be hanged then nothing can be more urgent than this,” Bobde said.
On January 14, the Supreme Court had rejected 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.
Akshay Kumar Singh is the fourth convict. The four convicts were to be hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail on January 22, but it was deferred because of Singh’s mercy plea.
Corrections and clarifications: The article has been edited to state that the convict’s petition was heard by judges R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna. Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was not part of the proceedings.