The Delhi High Court on Sunday reserved its verdict on the Centre’s petition challenging a trial court order staying the execution of four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape-murder case, PTI reported. The High Court held a special hearing on Sunday, days after a local court had indefinitely deferred the execution, which was scheduled for 6 am on February 1.

The court said it will pass its order after all the parties conclude their arguments.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the government, argued that the convicts have a “deliberate, calculated, and well thought design to frustrate the mandate of law”. He told Justice Suresh Kait that they were exploiting the process of law. “Order [stay on hanging] passed by the trial court deserves to be stayed,” Mehta added. “Every convict is enjoying defeating the judicial system in the country.”

He said the credibility of the institution and its own power to execute death sentence is at stake in the case.

Mehta also referred to the case where four men accused of raping and murdering a veterinarian in Hyderabad were shot dead by the police under controversial circumstances on December 6, ANI reported. “People celebrated after the encounter of rape accused in Telangana,” he said. “It was not the celebration of the police, it was the celebration of justice.”

“There cannot be any delay in the interest of justice, death sentence cannot be delayed,” Mehta said. “In the interest of the convict, any delay in death sentence will have a dehumanising effect on the accused.”

Meanwhile, lawyer AP Singh, appearing for the convicts, argued that there is no prescribed time given to execute the death sentence by the Supreme Court and Constitution. “Why only in this case there is a hurry,” he asked the court. “Justice hurried is justice buried.”

He said the four convicts in the case come from poor, rural and Dalit families. “The convicts cannot be made to bear brunt of ambiguity in the law,” Singh added.

Advocate Rebecca John, arguing on behalf of convict Mukesh Kumar Singh, said the Constitution allowed them to exercise legal remedies available till the last breath of their life. “Why did they [Centre] not move anything earlier,” she asked. “You cannot condemn me for using my legal remedies.”

On Saturday, the Delhi High Court had asked the four convicts to reply to the Centre’s plea. Justice Suresh Kait also issued a notice to the Tihar Jail chief after the lawyer representing the prison authorities told the court that he would need to seek instructions.

Mehta had argued on Saturday that the convicts were trying the patience of the country by their delaying tactics. “This gangrape case will go down in the history of India where convicts of heinous crime are trying patience of country,” Mehta said. The solicitor general alleged that the convicts had taken the legal process for a joyride.

President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected the mercy pleas of two of the convicts – Mukesh Singh and Vinay Sharma. Akshay Singh filed a mercy plea before Kovind on Saturday. The fourth convict, Pawan Gupta, has not yet filed one. The four men were in 2013 sentenced to death for raping and murdering a paramedical student on the night of December 16, 2012. The incident had sparked countrywide protests. The student died 13 days later at a Singapore hospital.

The convicts were given the death penalty – first by a trial court in September 2013, which was upheld by the Delhi High Court six months later and the Supreme Court in May 2017.

On Friday, the Supreme Court had dismissed the plea of Pawan Gupta, seeking a review of the top court’s decision to reject his claim that he was a juvenile at the time of the crime. On January 20, the Supreme Court had dismissed Gupta’s claim that he was a juvenile when he, along with five others, raped the woman on a bus. Earlier, the Delhi High Court had rejected his claim too and fined his lawyer AP Singh Rs 25,000 for wasting its time.