The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case on the Centre's appeal challenging the Delhi High Court verdict which dismissed its plea against stay on their execution. It also granted liberty to the authorities to approach the trial court for issuance of fresh date for the execution of these convict.
A 3-judge bench, headed by Justice R Banumathi and also comprising justices Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna, said the pendency of the appeal filed by the Centre and the Delhi government before it would not be an impediment for the trial court in issuing fresh date for execution of the convicts.
Solicitor General Tuhar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the Delhi government, said the execution of the convicts is not for "enjoyment " and the authorities are only executing the mandate of the law.
Referring to the delaying tactics of the convicts, he said three of them have exhausted their remedies but one of them, Pawan Gupta, has not yet filed either a curative plea in the apex court or a mercy petition before the President.
He said the court has to keep in mind the impact of this situation on the society as despite the appeals of the convict being dismissed by the top court in 2017, the authorities were "struggling to execute them even now".
Mehta referred to the alleged encounter killing of four accused in the gang rape and murder case of a woman veterinarian in Hyderabad and said: "People had celebrated after this and this was because people have started losing faith in the system. This reflects poorly on our system."
The court had initially said that issuing notice to the convicts would further delay the matter but later did so on the appeal filed by the Centre and Delhi government.
During the hearing on Friday, Mehta had told the court that the "nation's patience is being tested" in the matter and the bench will have to lay down a law on the issue.
The mercy pleas of Akshay Kumar and Vinay Kumar Sharma have already been dismissed, he had said, adding that the fourth convict Pawan Gupta has neither filed a curative petition nor a mercy plea.
Sharma approached the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the President. He has also sought commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment.
"Pawan has chosen not to file a curative or a mercy petition. The question is, is the authority required to wait endlessly," Mehta had told the bench of Friday.
To this, the bench had said, "No one can be compelled to take remedies."
Mehta had said in this case there may be a situation where one convict "sits tight for five years" and the others then approach the apex court seeking commutation of death penalty on the ground of delay in execution.
The Centre, through its Additional Solicitor General K M Natraj, had moved the top court seeking an urgent hearing on its appeal assailing the verdict which held last Wednesday that the death row convicts have to be executed together and not separately.
Natraj had told the court that jail authorities are unable to execute the convicts in the case despite the fact that their review petitions have been dismissed and curative petitions and mercy pleas of three of them have been rejected.
The high court set a week's deadline for them to avail the remaining remedies.
If the convicts choose not to make any type of petition in seven days from now, the institutions and authorities concerned will deal with the matter, as per the law, without further delay, it had said.
The trial court had on Friday dismissed the pleas of Delhi government and Tihar jail authorities seeking fresh date for execution of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case.
The court had on January 31 stayed "till further orders" execution of the four convicts in the case -- Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan (25), Vinay (26) and Akshay (31), who are lodged in Tihar Jail.
The first order for execution of death sentence, issued on January 7 for January 22, was stayed on January 17. The second warrant, issued on January 17, for February 1 was stayed on January 31.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known as 'Nirbhaya' (fearless), was gang-raped and savagely assaulted on the night of December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital.
Six people including the four convicts, Ram Singh and a juvenile -- were named as accused.
Ram Singh, the prime accused, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in Tihar jail days after the trial began. The juvenile, who was said to be the most brutal of the attackers, was put in a correctional home for three years.
The juvenile was released in 2015 and sent to an undisclosed location amid concerns over a threat to his life. He, when released, was 20 years old.