Amid outrage over the delay in hanging four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, the Supreme Court has come out with a set of guidelines to ensure that criminal appeals involving the death penalty are heard and settled at the earliest.
The top court has fixed a deadline of six months from the date of the high court's verdict for hearing appeals in cases where the death sentence is awarded.
The circular made public on Friday stated that if a high court confirms somebody's death sentence and the Supreme Court agrees to hear its appeal, the case will be listed for hearing by a bench of three judges within six months whether the appeal is ready or not.
After this, the registry will intimate the high court concerned and all the records related to the case will have to be sent to the Supreme Court within 60 days, unless the judges concerned decide on a different date. In case additional documents or translation of vernacular documents are required, the registry will allow the authorities concerned an additional period of 30 days.
The guidelines went on to say that if the process is not completed within the stipulated period, the matter will be listed in the judge's chamber instead of the registrar. Following this, the judge will issue an order again.
On January 31, a trial court stayed the execution of four convicts in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case -- Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31) -- until the issuance of further orders. This triggered a public outcry over delay tactics adopted by the convicts in availing legal remedies.
Six people, including the four convicts in question, had gang-raped and murdered a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern aboard a moving bus in the national capital on December 16, 2012. While one of them committed suicide in Tihar jail, the sixth person -- a juvenile -- was released after serving time in a correctional home.