The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna on Wednesday dismissed the last pending review petition in the Nirbhaya gang rape -murder case, which was filed by Akshay Kumar Sing, one of the four convicts awaiting execution of death sentence.
Reading out the verdict, Justice Banumathi said
"We have given due consideration to grounds. Petitioner has sought to assail evidence. These grounds considered earlier. This cannot be allowed. All these have been examined in trial court, High Court and Supreme Court".
The parents of the victim were present in the Court for witnessing the hearing.
The review petition was quite belated, as the SC had upheld the death penalty in May 2017. The review pleas of other three convicts were dismissed way back in July 2018.
After the verdict was pronounced, A P Singh, the counsel for the petitioner, sought for three weeks' time for filing mercy petition. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that seven days is the prescribed time for mercy plea.
Without expressing any view on this request, the bench said :
"We are not expressing our views. Whatever is the law, the petitioner can avail the relief of mercy petition as per time stipulated".
During the hearing held at morning, Advocate A P Singh, Akshay Kumar Singh's lawyer, submitted that the investigation was faulty and that his client was booked out of media and political pressure.
"Lack of professional conduct and inefficiency by investigation has led to this", the counsel submitted.
He alleged that the friend of the rape victim had taken lakhs of rupees as bribe for giving false evidence. He also referred to the statements made by former Tihar Jail Jailer Sunil Gupta in his memoir regarding suspicious circumstances relating to the suicide of one of the convicts Ram Singh in March 2013.
When the bench questioned about the relevance of these facts, A P Singh said that they indicated the extra public pressure in the case. Justice Ashok Bhushan repeatedly told Singh that these factual arguments cannot be considered again in review.
Singh also disputed the victim's dying declaration and said that Akshay's name was not mentioned by the victim in the first dying declaration. His name came only in second and third dying declarations, which the counsel said were due to tutoring.
"The patient was then under heavy dose of morphine. How could she give dying declaration?", Singh asked.
He also said that due to severe Delhi pollution, life expectancy was reducing and life was getting miserable anyways. So what is the need to give death penalty, he submitted.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Delhi police, submitted that Singh's arguments touching upon the merits of the case were elaborately considered and rejected by the Court in the appeal judgment. They cannot be re-agitated in a review hearing, SG said.
Highlighting the brutality of the crime, the Solicitor General said :
"There are crimes when God cries that this girl could not be saved, and also that monsters were born.There can be no mercy in such a case. The lawyers for accused are trying to delay the inevitable. They file some Petition, then file mercy, then withdraw it. I urge your Lordships to decide this at the earliest".
SG- first the arguments raised have gone through the entire legal process, and cannot be raised at this stage. All these have been considered by all courts.#Nirbhaya— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 18, 2019
SG- first the arguments raised have gone through the entire legal process, and cannot be raised at this stage. All these have been considered by all courts.#Nirbhaya
Earlier Today Chief Justice of India S A Bobde recused from hearing the review petition of Akshay Kumar Singh.
This was after CJI Bobde happened to spot the name of his nephew, Advocate Arjun Bobde, in the orders of the review petitions filed by the other three convicts.
Arjun Bobde had appeared for the victim's family in those proceedings. CJI said that he will constitute another bench for hearing the matter tomorrow at 10.30 AM.
Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan were also part of yesterday's bench.
The Supreme Court had dismissed the review petitions of the other three death row convicts - Mukesh Kumar, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Kumar Gupta- in July 2018. The death penalty was upheld by a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan.
In a voluminous judgement affirming death penalty, the bench had held the attitude of offenders as "beastial proclivity" and said "It sounds like a story from a different world where humanity is treated with irreverence."
Justice Banumathi had said the "incident shocks collective conscience of society".
"If the dreadfulness displayed by the accused in committing the gang-rape, unnatural sex, insertion of iron rod in the private parts of the victim does not fall in the 'rarest of rare category', then one may wonder what else would fall in that category. On these reasoning recorded by me, I concur with the majority in affirming the death sentence awarded to the accused persons", Justice Banumathi observed in the judgment.
Considering the "gravity of the case and questions of law involved", the SC bench had appointed two senior Supreme Court lawyers- Raju Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde to argue the appeals filed by the four convicts.
The crime happened on December 16, 2012, when five adult men and a juvenile lured the 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist and her male friend onto a bus in Delhi, where they repeatedly raped the woman and beat both with a metal bar before dumping them on a road. The woman, later dubbed Nirbhaya (meaning fearless), died two weeks later of her injuries. Four of the adults were sentenced to death while the fifth hanged himself in prison.
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