The Delhi high court said on Wednesday that if the mercy plea of one of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case is allowed by the President, it would entitle those whose petitions for pardon have already been rejected to move a fresh mercy plea.
The observation by the high court came in its verdict holding that all the four convicts -- Mukesh Kumar Singh, 32, Pawan Gupta, 25, Vinay Kumar Sharma, 26, and Akshay Kumar, 31 -- have to be hanged together and not separately.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said, "...if the mercy petition of similarly placed convict Akshay Kumar Singh is considered by the President of India, the change of circumstances would entitle convict Mukesh to move a fresh mercy petition."
However, hours after the high court order was pronounced, Akshay's mercy plea was rejected by the President on Wednesday evening.
The mercy pleas of Mukesh and Vinay have already been rejected. Pawan is yet to seek that relief.
The court has said that Rule VIII (A) of the instructions issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) regarding procedure to be observed by the states for dealing with petitions for mercy, 'highlights the point that even if the President of India has rejected a mercy petition, a fresh mercy petition can be moved due to change of circumstances'.
It also referred to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, who was executed for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, in which it was observed that the law permits the convict to move a subsequent mercy petition even after dismissal of mercy petition in case of change in circumstances.
"Thus, convict Mukesh cannot be adversely segregated from the similarly placed convicts simply because he has been sincerely and earnestly pursuing his legal remedies," the high court said.