In May 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the capital punishment awarded to the four men by the Delhi High Court.
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the petitions filed by the 2012 Delhi gang rape convicts to review their death penalty.
A Special Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices R. Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan rejected the convicts’ plea for a re-look at their case on the ground that they were not properly represented by lawyers during the trial and vital pieces of evidence in their favour was not brought before the court.
The same Bench had on May 5, 2017 upheld the death sentence to the four convicts awarded by the Delhi High Court and the trial court — Mukesh (29), Pawan Gupta (22), Vinay Sharma (23) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31).
Justice Bhushan, who spoke for the Bench in his judgment, said convicts cannot re-argue their entire case in the guise of a review petition.
Justice Bhushan said the ambit and scope of a review petition is well-defined, and can only be entertained if there is judicial fallibility, miscarriage of justice and error apparent in the earlier apex court judgment, in this case the May 2017 verdict.
Now, the convicts are only left with the rare remedy of filing a curative petition. They have to show there was judicial bias against them. The curative would be heard by the three seniormost judes of the apex court and the judges on the Bench. In this case, the CJI has led the review Bench.
The Supreme Court had on May 4, 2018 reserved the review petitions filed by two of the four condemned convicts for review of its 2017 verdict upholding the death penalty awarded to them in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case.
A Special three-judge Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices R. Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan had then reserved the order after hearing arguments on behalf of the convicts Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta who sought a review of its verdict.
The court had earlier reserved its verdict on the review petition filed by Mukesh. Advocate A.P. Singh, for Vinay and Pawan, argued that death penalty was “cold-blooded killing.”
The paramedic student was gang-raped on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a moving bus in South Delhi. She died on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.
Another accused in the case, Ram Singh, died in Tihar Jail and a convicted juvenile was released from the reformation home after serving a three-year term as per the Juvenile Justice Act.
The case led to the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code to make rape punishable with death penalty. In its May 2017 judgment, the court had concluded that the convicts “found an object for enjoyment in her… for their gross, sadistic and beastly pleasures… for the devilish manner in which they played with her dignity and identity is inhumane.”
Justice Banumathi, the woman judge on the Bench, had said “there is not even a hint of hesitation in my mind” in sending the men to their deaths.
“If at all there is a case warranting award of death sentence, it is the present case,” Justice Banumathi wrote in her separate concurring judgment in May 2017.
“Where a crime is committed with extreme brutality and the collective conscience of the society is shocked, courts must award death penalty. By not imposing a death sentence, the courts may do injustice to the society at large,” Justice Banumathi observed.
The brutality of the crime had compelled the CJI to note in his May 2017 opinion that the Nirbhaya case sounded “like a story from a different world where humanity has been treated with irreverence.”
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