An additional sessions court in Delhi on Thursday adjourned till February 17 the hearing of a plea for new death warrants for the four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder case, Live Law reported. The death warrants were first issued for January 22, and then postponed to February 1 because of the mercy pleas filed by two of them. The execution has now been put on hold indefinitely.
The court said convict Pawan Gupta should be provided adequate time to seek legal remedies after he was left without a counsel on Wednesday. Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana noted that execution of death warrants was an extremely sensitive matter and it cannot be “resolved on probabilities”. Rana observed that disposing of the plea would lead to more legal complications.
“Article 21 protects the life and liberty of a condemned convict till his last breath,” the court said. “He is entitled as a matter of right, to exhaust his legal remedies and the court cannot afford to ignore the fundamental rights of the condemned convicts.”
The court appointed a lawyer to represent Gupta after he refused to get one from the District legal Services Authority’s list of empanelled advocates. Tihar Jail officials also confirmed that the prisoner had refused to get a lawyer from the district body’s list, reported PTI. Gupta is the only one among the four convicts who has not filed a curative plea against his death sentence. A curative petition is the last legal recourse available to a convict.
The victim’s parents and the state government had filed a petition on Tuesday for a new execution date. The woman’s mother Asha Devi broke down during the hearing, and demanded that the court realise the convicts’ methods to delay their hanging.
In their plea, the woman’s parents had told the court that the four men were making a mockery of the law and frustrating it by repeatedly filing petitions against their execution. On January 31, the court had indefinitely deferred the execution that was scheduled for 6 am on February 1.
Earlier on Thursday, the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on convict Vinay Sharma’s petition against the rejection of his mercy plea by President Ram Nath Kovind. The judgement will be pronounced on Friday.
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.