A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on 2012 Delhi gangrape case convict Vinay Sharma’s plea against the rejection of his mercy plea by President Ram Nath Kovind, Live Law reported. The judgement will be pronounced on Friday. The president had rejected the pleas of Sharma and another convict, Mukesh Singh, on February 1.

As the proceedings began, Sharma’s lawyer AP Singh sought to peruse the Delhi government document advising Kovind to reject the convict’s mercy plea. He claimed that the recommendation did not carry the signatures of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and Home Minister Manish Sisodia. The court went through the document that was submitted by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, and turned down Singh’s request.

The defence counsel pointed out that this was the first time in India that four people were scheduled to be hanged at the same time. “They are not habitual offenders; they are not terrorists!” he added.

Mehta read the recommendation, which says that Sharma is not worthy of being pardoned as the crime he committed falls in the “rarest of rare” category. “We have not considered any material which is extraneous,” the government lawyer added. “Everyone has applied his mind. The guidelines have been followed. Everything has been done.”

The bench of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, meanwhile, deferred till Friday 2 pm the hearing of Centre’s petition for separate execution of the four convicts, and asked the prisoners to file their replies by then, Bar and Bench reported.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, who represented Mukesh Singh, informed the court about the petitions that Tihar Jail authorities and the victim’s parents filed in a Delhi court, seeking a new execution date. Grover also told the court about the pendency of Centre’s application seeking victim-centric guidelines for execution of convicts.

The lawyer also told the court that AP Singh was no longer Pawan Gupta’s counsel. AP Singh is now representing convicts Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur. The court then appointed advocate Anjana Prakash as amicus curiae to represent Gupta, PTI reported.

Gupta is the only convict not to have filed a curative petition against his death sentence –
the last legal remedy to a death-row convict that is decided in-chamber. He also has the option of filing a mercy petition to Kovind.

Legal proceedings till now

On February 5, the Delhi High Court had turned down the Union government’s plea to hang the four men separately, and said they would have to be executed together since they were convicted for the same crime. The court gave the convicts one week’s time to resort to all legal remedies.

The Centre and the Delhi government had challenged a lower court’s order staying the execution of the convicts, which was initially scheduled for 6 am on February 1. The convicts’ death warrants were first issued for January 22, and then postponed to February 1 because of their mercy pleas to the president.

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 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 the Supreme Court in May 2017.