- A new bench is hearing the review petition of one of four convicts
- In his petition, the convict has argued that Delhi is a "gas chamber"
- Review petitions of three other convicts have been dismissed earlier
The four men convicted in the 2012 gang-rape, torture and killing of a young medical student in Delhi are a step closer to being hanged after the Supreme Court today dismissed the last review petition in the case, filed by one of the convicts. Confirming the death sentence of convict Akshay Kumar Singh, the court said he had the option of pleading for mercy before the President of India and had one week to do so.
"Review petition is not re-hearing of the appeal over and over again," a three-judge bench said, pointing out that similar arguments were considered for petitions of the three other convicts requesting a review of their death sentence.
Shortly afterwards, a lower court refused to put out a death warrant as demanded by Nirbhaya's parents, asking Tihar Jail to confirm instead when the convicts would file their mercy plea. "I have been running from pillar to post for one year," Nirbhaya's mother broke down before the judge, who consoled her saying he was bound by the law.
In the Supreme Court, Akshay Singh had questioned the dying declaration of the woman - known to the world as "Nirbhaya" or fearless - and had alleged that the "pressure to implicate him had been overlooked" and there had been "inefficiency to catch the real perpetrators". He had also argued that Delhi is a gas chamber and the life-span of a person was short anyway because of pollution.
"There are certain crimes where 'humanity cries' and this case is one of them. 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," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said, representing the Delhi government.
Akshay Singh's lawyer AP Singh argued there was media and public pressure to implicate him. The dying declaration of Nirbhaya was "doubtful and cannot be relied upon", he alleged, also pointing to a recent book by a former jailer of the Tihar Jail, where the convicts are lodged. The book raises questions about the suicide in jail of Ram Singh, one of the accused.
"We can't go by views of any author. We can't go into all this now. This will set a dangerous trend if people start writing books after the trial is over and talk about such things," said the Supreme Court.
Claiming "new facts", Akshay Singh's lawyer also said a CBI inquiry was never carried out in the case and referred to the case of the killing of a Delhi schoolboy in which a bus conductor arrested by the police was cleared by the CBI.
The review petitions of the three other convicts, Mukesh, 30, Pawan Gupta, 23, and Vinay Sharma, 24, had been dismissed earlier. Of the six accused of Nirbhaya's rape and murder, four were convicted, a fifth -- Ram Singh -- committed suicide and a juvenile was released after three years in a reform home.
The 23-year-old paramedic student was gang-raped and tortured with an iron rod on a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16, 2012, before being dumped on a road, naked and bleeding. She died on December 29 amid street protests across the country.