Nirbhaya: New Bench constituted to hear convict’s review petition after CJI SA Bobde recuses

Nirbhaya: New Bench constituted to hear convict’s review petition after CJI SA Bobde recuses

The Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has constituted a new Bench to hear the review petition filed by Akshay Kumar Singh, a death row convict in the Nirbhaya gangrape case of 2012.

The new Bench constituted will be headed by Justice R Banumathi and comprise Justices Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna and will take up the matter for hearing at 10.30AM on Wednesday, December 18.

The new Bench was constituted after CJI Bobde today recused himself from hearing the case while informing everyone present that a new Bench would be constituted tomorrow for the case.

When the matter came up this afternoon before the Bench, upon which Advocate AP Singh began submissions for the review petitioner, expressing reservations about the manner in which the investigation was conducted in the Nirbhaya case.

However, before the hearing could progress further, CJI Bobde noticed that Advocate Arjun Bobde had represented the victim earlier. On account of the victim’s former Advocate being related to CJI Bobde, he expressed reservations about hearing the case himself.

Singh had filed his review petition assailing the death penalty awarded to him earlier this week questioning the evidence relied upon for his conviction and sentencing. Singh, in his petition, has also made a general case against capital punishment.

The state must not simply execute people to prove that it is attacking terror or violence against women. It must persistently work towards systematic reforms to being about change. Executions only kill the criminal, not the crime and hat the crime not the criminals.”

The petition puts forth moral and practical reasons for the abolition of the death penalty, recounting that there is no evidence proving its deterrent value. The observations of former Chief Justice of India PN Bhagwati that the poor and the downtrodden are more likely to be sent to the gallows, are also cited. Singh’s petition goes on to query,

If our criminal justice system cannot guarantee the consistent application of legal standard and rule of law, how can we then allow judicial to decide who should live or die?

The petition has been drawn and settled by Advocates AP Singh, VP Singh, Geeta Chauhan, Pratima Rani and Richa Singh, and filed by Advocate Sadashi.

On December 13, the mother of the victim in the case moved the Supreme Court requesting to be heard when the Review petition is taken up by the Court. This request was mentioned before the Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde which had allowed the plea.

On December 16, 2012, news broke of six men in Delhi having brutally  gang-raped a young woman, later named ‘Nirbhaya’, in a moving bus. The victim succumbed to her injuries two weeks later at a hospital in Singapore. The six accused were apprehended by the police.

Of the six accused, the main accused committed suicide in Tihar jail during the course of the trial and the juvenile accused was sentenced to three years in a remand home upon conviction. The remaining four were handed a death penalty by the Additional Sessions Judge.

The four convicts then approached the Delhi High Court in appeal. However, the High Court upheld the lower court verdict. The Supreme Court too upheld the death penalty in May 2017. In July 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed review petitions filed by two of the accused.

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