Centre Moves Supreme Court For New Rules For Speedy Hanging Of Death Row Convicts
Observing that heinous crime convicts are taking the "judicial process for a ride", the Centre on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court for fixing a 7-day deadline for execution of condemned prisoners after issuance of black warrant, amid the delay in the hanging of the four death row convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape-murder case.
Fresh death warrants were issued by a Delhi court on Jan. 17 for the hanging of Vinay Sharma (26), Akshay Kumar Singh (31), Mukesh Kumar Singh (32) and Pawan (26) on Feb. 1 after their hanging scheduled in Tihar jail on Jan. 22 was postponed due to pending petitions.
The hanging has been delayed due to filing of review, curative and mercy petitions over a period of several months, prolonging the agony of Nirbhaya's parents and other family members.
Stressing that the "need of the hour" was to lay down guidelines in "the interest of the victims" rather than keeping the rights of the convicts in mind, the Centre said those punished for "horrible, dreadful, cruel, abominable, ghastly, gruesome and heinous offences" like rape and murder should be not permitted to play with the "majesty of law" and prolong the execution of the sentence awarded to them.
The Centre submitted this was necessary in the larger interest of public and of the victims and their families.
Seeking modifications of directions issued in 2014 in the Shatrughan Chauhan case, it said, "all the guidelines provided...are accused-centric. These guidelines, however, do not take into account an irreparable mental trauma, agony, upheaval and derangement of the victims and their family members, the collective conscience of the nation and the deterrent effect which the capital punishment intends to make."
The Centre contended that it is found several years before and after the 2014 judgment, the convicts of heinous crimes under the garb of Article 21 (right to life) take "the judicial process for a ride".
The plea said the apex court had opined that the delay in execution of death penalty has got a "de-humanising effect" upon the death convicts.
In an application, the Ministry of Home Affairs sought a direction "to mandate all competent courts, state governments, prison authorities in country to issue death warrant of a convict within seven days of rejection of his mercy petition and to execute death sentence within 7 days thereafter irrespective of the stage of review petition/curative petition/mercy petition of his co-convicts."
The Home Ministry, in its application, made three prayers which also included a direction from the court that a time period be fixed for such death row convicts for filing curative pleas after rejection of their review pleas.
The ministry also sought a direction that if a death row convict wanted to file a mercy petition, it should be made mandatory for him to "do so only within a period of seven days from the date of receipt of death warrant issued by the competent court".
The Home Ministry said the country is facing a menace of certain offences relating to terrorism, rape and murder which are punishable with death sentence.
"It is submitted that the offence of rape is not only a criminal offence defined in the penal code of the country but is the most horrific and unpardonable offence in any civilized society. The offence of rape is not only an offence against an individual and society but is an offence against humanity.
"There are various instances of such heinous and horrific offences of rape accompanied by an equally horrible and horrific offence of murder of the victim which shakes the collective conscience of the nation," the MHA said.
The MHA, in its plea filed through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, urged the court to fix a time limit within which the convict of death sentence should file curative petition, if he so chooses to do so.
"In case of multiple convicts of such horrific crimes who are awaiting death sentence, mandating the issuance of warrant by competent court within seven days of rejection of mercy petition and execution of death sentence within seven days thereafter irrespective of the proceeding, if any, taken by his co-convicts," it said.
The ministry said under the scheme of criminal justice system, a fool proof regime is being provided to accused at various stages of judicial scrutiny to ensure that an accused is punished strictly in accordance with law and convicts be not allowed to misuse the judicial processes.
"When a death sentence is awarded to an accused after the judicial scrutiny, the procedure established by law ensures that the said decision is mandatorily tested by the highest court of the state namely the high court," it said.
The MHA said in "furtherance of protecting the right of a convict, he has a right to approach the highest court of the country that is this court and file an appeal. This court also not only examines the entire judicial decision making afresh but also permits the accused to satisfy this court about any mitigating circumstances which the accused wants to be taken into consideration before conforming/annulling/modifying the sentence awarded and confirmed".
It also said even after dismissal of the appeal, the provision of filing review pleas are also there and they are heard in an open court in the apex court and the convicts have then got the option of filing curative pleas.
The 23-year-old paramedic student, referred to as Nirbhaya or fearless was gang-raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012, in a moving bus in south Delhi by six people before she was thrown out on the road.