A court in Delhi on Friday dismissed a request by authorities at Tihar Jail to grant the four death-row convicts in the 2012 gangrape and murder case a fresh date of execution through the issuance of a death warrant, PTI reported. On January 31, the court had indefinitely deferred the execution, which was scheduled for 6 am on February 1.

Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana sought to know from the authorities how they presumed that no plea will be filed by Pawan Gupta, one of the four convicts, within the one-week deadline the Delhi High Court granted to resort to all legal remedies available to them.

The court ruled that death warrants cannot be issued “merely on the basis of surmises and conjectures”. “The application is bereft of merit,” it added. “Same is dismissed. State is [at] liberty to move appropriate application as and when required. It is criminally sinful to execute the convicts when law permits them to live.”

President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected the mercy plea of the three other convicts – Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh. A mercy plea to the president is the last available option for death-row convicts.

Centre’s plea to hang convicts separately to be heard in SC on Tuesday

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday said it will hear the Centre’s plea to separately execute the four death-row convicts in the 2012 gangrape-and-murder case on February 11.

A bench headed by Justice R Banumathi dismissed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s request to issue a notice to the convicts. Mehta argued that the “nation’s patience is being tested” and this would lead to further delay in the case.

Banumathi also noted that one of the four convicts, Pawan Gupta, had not yet filed a curative petition or mercy plea, Bar and Bench reported. However, the court said a convict cannot be forced to exercise their legal remedies.

“Pawan has chosen not to file a curative or a mercy petition,” Mehta told the court. “The question is, is the authority required to wait endlessly?”

Mehta told the court that time had come for an authoritative law to be laid down on this aspect. He asked the judges to let the convicts come to court on Monday and specify what they intend to do.

“Issuance of notice will not harm them,” he said. “The High Court had also issued notices to them. The court can have the benefit of their assistance on the issue. As an institution we are answerable to the society.”

The bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, told Mehta that it will hear the plea next week and consider whether notice is required to be issued to the convicts.

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday turned down a plea of the Union government and said the four would have to be hanged together since they were convicted for the same crime.

The Centre and the Delhi government had challenged the stay on execution of the convicts. The convicts’ death warrants were first issued for January 22, and then postponed to February 1 because of the mercy pleas two of them had filed.

The four men were sentenced to death in September 2013 for raping and murdering a paramedical student on the night of December 16, 2012. The assault had sparked countrywide protests. The student died 13 days later at a Singapore hospital.

The death sentence was upheld by the Delhi High Court in March 2014, and by the Supreme Court in May 2017.