The government today asked the Supreme Court for a change in guidelines in death penalty cases to bring in a seven-day time limit for convicts to use their last available legal options before execution. The current rules are skewed towards convicts and allows them to "play with the law and delay execution," the centre said in its petition, amid anger over a delay in the Nirbhaya convicts' hanging.
The petition asks for a modification in a past Supreme Court judgment on the rights of death row convicts and says there should be a time limit for a curative petition after the Supreme Court rejects all previous pleas.
The government also wants the court to direct that a death row convict can only file a mercy plea within seven days of receiving the death warrant. Also, state governments and jail officials should issue death warrants within seven days of the mercy plea being rejected, the petition says.
The four convicts sentenced to death in the 2012 Delhi gang-rape or the "Nirbhaya" case were to hang on Wednesday, going by a lower court order on January 9.
However, the court declared a new time for execution after one of the convicts filed a mercy petition last week. Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Singh and Pawan Gupta will hang on February 1 at 6 am, said the judge on Friday last.
Under the rules, even after the mercy petition is rejected by the President, 14 days have to be given to the convict until execution.
Last week, the Supreme Court rejected the claim of one of the Nirbhaya convicts that he was underage at the time the young woman was gang-raped and killed in 2012. The court said an age claim rejected earlier cannot be raised again. "How many times will we hear the same things, you have raised it already many times," the court said, hearing the petition filed on Friday, the day the second date of execution was announced.
Nirbhaya's parents are among those who have questioned petitions filed by the convicts at the eleventh hour as a way of delaying the sentence.
The 23-year-old medical student who came to be known as Nirbhaya was gang-raped and tortured with an iron rod on a moving bus on December 16, 2012, before being dumped on the road with severe internal injuries. She died two weeks later, leaving a shocked and angry nation demanding tough action.
Nirbhaya's parents say seven years since, they are still waiting for their daughters' killers to hang.
In the season of polls, especially the Delhi election next month, the case has taken a political turn with the ruling BJP blaming the AAP government in Delhi for the delay.