The Supreme Court will pronounce, on Wednesday, its verdict in the petition filed by one of the four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder case, Mukesh, challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Another convict Akshay Thakur (31) also filed a curative plea late Tuesday.
President Kovind had rejected Mukesh’s mercy petition on January 17 just four days after it was filed, the fastest decision ever on such a plea.
Senior counsel Anjana Prakash, who represented Mukesh on Tuesday before a three-judge bench led by Justice R Banumathi, challenged the rejection of his request for a presidential pardon.
Mukesh and his three other accomplices, who were convicted for the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic student in a moving bus in Delhi in 2012, have been sentenced to death. Earlier this month, a Delhi court had ordered the four of them to be executed on February 1.
Prakash told the bench, which also comprises justices Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, that the government failed to place all the records of the case before the President who could, therefore, not make an informed decision.
She told the court that documents, including the trial court judgment, were not transmitted to the President, who arrived at his decision without having had an opportunity to examine relevant records.
Prakash also highlighted the fact Mukesh was kept in solitary confinement and the President was not informed of the same. She also cited previous judgments of the court in Shatrughan Chauhan and Dharam Pal cases as per which solitary confinement was one of the grounds for commutation of death penalty to life imprisonment.
One of the arguments against the petition by Mukesh was that the President was not exercising a judicial function and his decision cannot, therefore, be challenged in a court of law.
Prakash, however, responded to the same by arguing that a death row convict can challenge the manner in which the President exercised his power to grant pardon under Article 72 of the Constitution. She cited judgments of the Supreme Court to that effect. “Execution of a death sentence should also be as per constitutional principles,” Prakash told the court.
She also claimed that Mukesh was sexually abused in jail and his brother, Ram Singh, who was the prime accused in the case, was murdered in the jail.
The pace at which the President rejected mercy plea was also pointed out by Mukesh’s counsel to allege “non-application of mind” by the President.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government said it was ironical that the convict would raise arguments regarding sanctity of life considering the horrifying nature of the crime for which he has been found guilty.
Importantly, Mehta disputed Mukesh’s claim that relevant records were not sent to the President and also denied that Mukesh was kept in solitary confinement. He said Mukesh might have been kept segregated in a single cell, but that did not amount to solitary confinement.
The execution of the four convicts, which was initially scheduled for January 22, was pushed to February 1 after Mukesh filed his mercy petition before the President.