The four death-row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case are set to be hanged early Friday morning with a Delhi court clearing the decks for their execution by dismissing a plea seeking a stay on it.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana on Thursday refused to grant any relief to Akshay Kumar, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh and rejected the petition saying no valid ground has been brought to his notice to justify the stay of execution of death warrants scheduled on March 20 at 5:30 am.
"I am of the considered opinion that the application is bereft of merits. No valid ground has been brought to my notice to justify the stay of execution of death warrants. The application is accordingly dismissed," the judge said.
Interestingly, the judge, in his order, also took note of the considerable time consumed by the judiciary in the case and addressed the doubts that have been lingering in the minds of some people on the efficacy of the rule of law.
The court said the resilience of law signified the inherent safeguards against human errors and not the weakness of law.
"When would the convicts meet the creator for their eternal penitence? The issue has been pestering the conscience of the community for past some time. The time consumed by the process of law has even led some diffident voices to timorously question the very efficacy of 'rule of law'.
"Let me inform all the suspecting souls that in this great land of Gautam Buddha and Gandhi, rule of law and not impetuous mob mentality, decides the fate of even the most wretched criminals and most abominable crimes. The resilience of law signifies the inherent safeguards against human errors and not the weakness of law," the judge said.
After the pronouncement of the order, Nirbhaya's mother said her daughter's soul will now rest in peace and she had got justice seven years after the gruesome gangrape and murder that shook the nation.
"Finally the convicts will be hanged. Now I will get peace," Asha Devi said.
The judge also pulled up one of the convicts for failing to exercise his legal remedy and challenge before the rejection of his mercy plea by the President.
"The condemned convict Pawan cannot be permitted to frustrate the course of law by simply opting to remain indolent. It is not a case wherein the convict is either unaware of his rights or is not able to exercise them for want of legal aid.
"One who seeks protection of law first needs to learn to respect it. Therefore, I do not find any plausible reasons to suspend the execution of death sentence simply because Pawan has opted not to exercise his legal remedy," the judge said.
During the hearing, Additional Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan and Irfan Ahmed informed the court no legal remedy of any of the convicts was pending in any court of law.
To this, advocate A P Singh, appearing for the convicts, claimed that the second mercy plea of Pawan was pending.
To this, Ahmed said that Singh was giving false information to the court as the second mercy pleas of Akshay and Pawan were not entertained on the ground that the first mercy petitions were considered on merits.
Singh also said that Akshay's wife has filed for a divorce in a city court in Bihar which was pending, to which the special public prosecutor said any other petition does not fall under the purview of legal remedy in the present case.
When the judge was pronouncing the order, Akshay's wife pleaded to the judge that justice was being denied to her.
The judge said, "There is Nirbhaya's mother. You tell these to her. Order dismissed."
On March 5, the court had issued fresh death warrants for March 20 at 5.30 am, as the date for the execution of Mukesh (32), Pawan (25), Vinay (26) and Akshay (31).
High-voltage drama ensued outside the Patiala House Courts complex following the hearing as Akshay's wife fainted outside and said she and her minor son be hanged too.
She has filed a divorce petition saying she did not wish to live with the label of "a rapist's widow".
"I want justice too. Kill me too. I do not want to live. My husband is innocent. Why is the society after us? We were living with the hope that we will get justice but we are being killed everyday for the last seven years," she said, while crying hysterically outside the court.
Devi, who beat herself with sandals, was consoled by the lawyers present outside the court.
The death warrants were issued for the first time on January 7 and have been deferred four times earlier on the ground that the convicts were yet to exhaust all their legal remedies.
A 23-year-old physiotherapy intern was gang-raped and savagely assaulted in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16, 2012. She died after a fortnight.
Six people, including the four convicts and a juvenile, were named as accused. Ram Singh, the sixth accused, allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail days after the trial began in the case.
The juvenile was released in 2015 after spending three years in a correctional home.