The four death row convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder case were hanged to death at the Tihar Jail on Friday at 5.30 am, seven years after the crime, which had led to massive protests across the nation. Death warrants for the convicts – Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta – had been issued for the fourth time as they had taken turns to file multiple petitions in the last few months in an attempt to escape the death penalty.
Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and two others – a juvenile who was released after spending three years in a juvenile detention centre, and main accused Ram Singh, who died in prison – raped and brutally assaulted a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi on December 16, 2012. Weeks later, on December 29, the woman died at a hospital in Singapore. Her death led to several protests and more conversation about crimes against women. It also led to some changes in law.
Scores of people gathered outside the Tihar Jail ahead of the hanging. Some people carried posters thanking the judiciary. Security was beefed up outside the jail. After the execution, prison officials told PTI that four men were executed simultaneously for first time in Tihar jail’s history. About an hour after the executions, Tihar Jail Director General Sandeep Goel said a doctor has examined all four convicts and declared them dead. He added that the bodies will be handed over to the respective families after post-mortem.
Less than two hours before the execution, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from the convicts, reported Bar and Bench. They had taken their petition to the Supreme Court after it was turned down by the Delhi High Court and the trial court within 14 hours. “The consistent view of this court is that scope for review of President’s decision in mercy petitions is very limited,” the bench of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna said. “What are the grounds on which you are challenging rejection of mercy plea by President...You had relied on school certificate to claim juvenility and are using it again and again. You are asking us to review judgement, your juvenility claim has been rejected by lower court, Delhi High Court and us as well,” it said.
On Thursday night, the Delhi High Court dismissed a last-minute petition filed by three of the convicts seeking a stay on the execution. They had approached the High Court after a trial court in Delhi had rejected the petition earlier in the day. The same day, the Supreme Court also dismissed a petition filed by Singh, claiming that crucial documents and evidence were concealed during the trial in the case. The top court also rejected the curative petition filed by Gupta against the dismissal of another petition claiming that he was a juvenile when the crime took place.
The victim’s parents have repeatedly expressed their unhappiness at the executions being delayed. The first death warrant was issued for January 22, and then postponed to February 1 because of the mercy pleas filed by two of the convicts. After this, they were scheduled to be hanged at Tihar Jail in Delhi on March 3, but another mercy plea led to a postponement.
All four convicts had filed multiple petitions over the last few months in an attempt to stall their hanging. Their mercy petitions were rejected by President Kovind.
On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Singh’s petition seeking the restoration of all his legal remedies on the grounds that his former lawyer had misled him. Singh had sought the cancellation of all orders passed by courts and the rejection of his mercy petition by President Ram Nath Kovind, alleging that his lawyer Vrinda Grover had acted against his interests.
Thakur, Sharma and Gupta had also approached the International Court of Justice at The Hague in the Netherlands seeking a stay on their “unlawful execution”.
Sharma had approached the Delhi High Court claiming “constitutional irregularities” and procedural lapses in the rejection of his mercy petition by President Ram Nath Kovind last month.