New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the review petition filed by Akshay Singh Thakur, one of the death-row convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya rape and murder case. A newly-constituted three-member bench headed by Justice Bhanumathi and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna heard the case. The judgement was pronounced at 1 pm on Wednesday. With the rejection of Akshay's review petition, the path for the hanging of all the four convicts in the heinous crime is clear.
After the verdict, Akshay's counsel told the top court that the convict wants to file a mercy petition before the President of India and seeks three weeks time to file it. The court said that the petitioner can avail the relief of mercy petition within the stipulated time.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that seven days can be given to file a review and that one week is the time prescribed to file the mercy petition before the President.
The Patiala House Court in Delhi will now hear the petition on issuing their death warrant. The judgement will be given at 2 pm.
During the course of proceedings, Advocate AP Singh, representing Akshay, told a newly-constituted bench headed by Justice R Banumathi that death penalty is against human rights and is a symptom of anti-Indian culture. "We are living in Delhi and the air condition is like gas chamber, then why death penalty?" asked Singh. He argued that when life expectancy itself is reducing then why give death penalty.
He also said that his client has been "falsely implicated" in the case and argued against the death penalty awarded to him. "Death penalty is a primitive method of punishment. Execution kills the criminal not the crime. Use of the death penalty did not seem to have a deterrent effect on criminals and convicts," Singh contended.
Advocate Singh referred to a book written by a cop who was part of the Nirbhaya probe raising questions about the custodial suicide of Ram Singh, another accused in the Nirbhaya case. Reacting to this, Justice Bhushan said, "This is a dangerous trend. After a trial is over, a person writes a book casting doubts."
"There are two arguments--moral and legal. The moral invokes human rights, says you can kill the criminal, not the crime. India has held life to be sacrosanct. It is an act of violence. Poor are the victims of death penalty and rich don't go to gallows. Morally indefensible," said Advocate Singh.
The new bench was constituted to hear Akshay Kumar Singh`s review petition after the CJI recused himself on personal grounds from a bench, which also comprised Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan. In the new bench, Justice SA Bopanna has replaced the Chief Justice. Notably, Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan were part of the court`s bench which rejected the review petitions of other three convicts in the case.
Akshay has moved the top court seeking review of its 2017 verdict which upheld the death penalty awarded to him and three others in the case. He has sought modification and leniency in the sentence.
The four persons are facing the gallows for rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus on the night of December 16, 2012. In May 2017, Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan and Vinay had knocked the doors of the apex court against a Delhi High Court order which confirmed the capital punishment awarded to them by the trial court in September 2013.
In a voluminous judgement, the bench of the top court had held the attitude of offenders as "bestial proclivity" and said, "It sounds like a story from a different world where humanity is treated with irreverence." Subsequently, the three convicts besides Akshay had sought review of the judgment but it was dismissed. Besides four convicts, prime accused Ram Singh had committed suicide in the Tihar jail during the trial of the case. Another accused in the matter was a minor and had appeared before a juvenile justice court.