Chief Justice S A Bobde recused himself on Tuesday from hearing the plea of convict Akshay Kumar Singh seeking review of the 2017 apex court judgment upholding his death penalty in the December 16, 2012 gang rape-and-murder case, and a new bench will hear the petition on Wednesday.
After the CJI's recusal, a bench comprising Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna was constituted on Tuesday evening by the apex court to hear the review plea of the death row convict at 10.30 am on Wednesday.
A special bench comprising the CJI and Justices Banumathi and Bhushan commenced hearing on the review plea Akshay, 33, while asking his lawyer A P Singh to conclude the submission within half-an-hour.
After hearing the submissions for a few minutes, the CJI learned the fact that his lawyer-nephew had earlier appeared in a related case on behalf of the mother of the deceased victim.
"List these matters on December 18, before another Bench of which Hon'ble the Chief Justice is not a member," the bench said in the order.
While dealing with other connected review plea field by one Sanjjiiv Kkumaar, the bench said that it was going to take some steps tomorrow to deal with the trials in general in cases relating to sexual assaults against women.
"We will pass some orders tomorrow," the bench said.
To this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the apex court has already ordered setting up of special courts in each district where more than one hundred cases of sexual assault cases are pending under the The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO).
On Tuesday, the apex court in its administrative order decided to set up a 2-judge committee of Justices Subhash Reddy and M R Shah to look into the issue of expeditious disposal of rape cases across the country.
Advocate A P Singh, appearing for Akshay, started his submission saying that the case in hand has suffered political and media pressure and grave injustice has been done to the convict.
Akshay had sought clemency arguing life in Delhi is anyway becoming short due to rising air and water pollution.
On July 9 last year, the apex court had dismissed the review pleas filed by the other three convicts -- Mukesh (30), Pawan Gupta (23) and Vinay Sharma (24) -- in the case, saying no grounds have been made out by them for review of the 2017 verdict.
The 23-year-old paramedic student was gang raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a moving bus in south Delhi by six persons before being thrown out on the road.
She died on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.
One of the six accused in the case, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail.
A juvenile, who was among the accused, was convicted by a juvenile justice board and was released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term.
The top court in its 2017 verdict had upheld the capital punishment awarded to them by the Delhi High Court and the trial court in the case.
"The state must not simply execute people to prove that it is attacking terror or violence against women. It must persistently work towards systematic reforms to bring about change. Executions only kill the criminal, not the crime...," said Akshay in the review plea, filed through advocate Singh.
Akshay, lodged in a jail in New Delhi, has further said that death penalty entails ‘cold blooded killing’ and does not provide convicts the chance to reform themselves.
The plea referred to the moral reasons for abolition of the death penalty and said there was no evidence to show that such a punishment has got a deterrent value.
The convicts, except Akshay Kumar Singh, can still file curative pleas in the top court against their conviction and death penalty in the case.
After exhausting the remedy of filing curative pleas, the convicts can send their mercy pleas to the President.
In case the pleas are dismissed, the authorities can seek death warrants from a local court to execute them.