Nirbhaya Rape case: Supreme Court dismisses review petition by death row convict

Nirbhaya Rape case: Supreme Court dismisses review petition by death row convict

The Supreme Court today dismissed the review petition filed by Akshay Kumar Singh, a death row convict in the Nirbhaya gangrape case of 2012.

The plea was dismissed by a Bench headed by Justice R Banumathi and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, which took up the matter this morning after CJI SA Bobde recused himself from hearing the matter yesterday.

While dismissing the review petition, the Bench said, “We do not find any error on the face of the record.”

Justice Banumathi while reading the judgment said,

“Grounds raised are identical to the ones raised in the review Petitions filed in this case by other convicts which were dismissed then.

So far as the flaws in the investigation, all these things have been considered by the trial court, High Court and then it was confirmed by this court too.”

Today, Advocate AP Singh, Counsel for Akshay Singh Kumar was allotted thirty minutes for his submissions. Singh, terming the convicts in the case as “vulnerable” and “innocent”, said that the Nirbhaya case was marred by pressures from all quarters including political and media.

Raising questions on the investigation and the case of the prosecution, Singh also alleged that the convicts in the case were caught by the Police after the law enforcement agency was unable to track down real culprits.

Singh also argued that an “unnecessary” urgency was being displayed for the hanging of the convicts in this case and submitted that death row convicts in other cases were still not hanged.

Arguing on the point of human rights, Singh submitted that capital punishment is opposed to human rights and also submitted that the life expectancy of the people was being reduced and there was no need for death punishment

The Court took critical note of these arguments in its judgment, observing,

… we would like to point out two grounds raised by the petitioner in this review petition viz., (i) futility of awarding death sentence in Kalyug, where a person is no better than a dead body; and (ii) that the level of pollution in Delhi NCR is so great that life is short anyhow and everyone is aware of what is happening in Delhi NCR in this regard and while so, there is no reason why death penalty should be awarded.

According to the petitioner, in view of the above, he should be spared of the death sentence. We find it unfortunate that such grounds have been raised in the matter as serious as the present case

As far as these general arguments were concerned, the Court opined that such general contentions cannot be gone into in a review petition.  The Court ultimately dismissed the review plea, and reaffirmed the death penalty for Singh, while also observing that,

We do not find that these findings suffer from any error apparent on the face of the record. The mitigating circumstances elaborated upon by the defence by way of highlighting the comparatively young age of the convicts, their socio-economic background, their unblemished antecedents and their chances of reformation, fade into insignificance. In light of the aggravating circumstances and considering that the case falls within the category of “rarest of rare cases”, the death penalty is confirmed.”

The submissions of the review petitioner were earlier opposed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who said that the petitioners were trying to delay the inevitable by filing various petitions and pleas. Closing his arguments, Mehta had said,

“There are some crimes for which humanity cries. On that fateful day, God also must have held his head in shame for two reasons. First for not being able to save the innocent girl and second for having created these five monsters. Please reject review as early as possible so that law can take its own course immediately.”

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, had 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 put 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, were also cited. Singh’s petition queried

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 was 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.

[Read the Judgment]

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