Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today hit back at allegations that his AAP government was to blame for delays in the execution of the four Nirbhaya convicts. Mr Kejriwal said his government "hardly has any role in it (the execution)" and that whatever paperwork had to be filled out by the AAP was "completed...within hours". The Chief Minister's comment came after a tearful appeal by Asha Devi, Nirbhaya's mother, who criticised "people playing with my daughter's death for political gains".
The four convicts, earlier scheduled to be executed on January 22, will now be hanged at 6 am on February 1, a Delhi court ruled this evening.
"All the work that was under the Delhi government was completed by us within hours... we never delayed any work related to this case. Delhi government hardly has any role in it. We want convicts to be hanged at the earliest," Mr Kejriwal was quoted by news agency ANI.
Only hours before Nirbhaya's mother implored the government for justice for her daughter, telling ANI: "Those who attacked my daughter are being given a thousand options, but we have no rights?"
On Thursday the BJP's Prakash Javadekar sparked a blame game between his party and AAP after he claimed the hanging had been delayed because of "negligence" on the part of the Delhi government.
"AAP is responsible for the delay in justice. Why did Delhi government not give notice to the convicts for filing mercy plea in last 2.5 years?" Mr Javadekar asked at a news conference.
The AAP and the BJP will go head-to-head in Assembly polls in Delhi scheduled for February 8.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia hit back only hours later, reminding Mr Javadekar that administration of the Tihar Jail, where the four convicts are currently held and will be executed, was handled by the central government that is ruled by the BJP.
On Wednesday the AAP government had told the Delhi High Court the convicts could not be hanged on January 22, as previously ordered by the trial court, because none of them had moved mercy petitions before President Ram Nath Kovind.
As per law, convicts on death row cannot be executed till they exhaust all remedies under law.
"The fate of a death convict comes to finality only after his mercy plea is rejected by the President," Rahul Mehra, a lawyer representing the Delhi government, told the High Court.
The prosecution had claimed the convicts are "frustrating" and "intentionally" delaying the legal process by filing curative and mercy pleas in stages to postpone their execution. The convicts will now be hanged at 6 am on February 1, the court said today, issuing fresh death warrants.
This morning the President rejected a mercy plea filed by Mukesh Singh, one of the convicts. However, the three other convicts have their mercy petitions pending and, as per law, there must be a 14-day gap between the rejection of the mercy plea and the execution.
On December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped and tortured on a moving bus before being dumped on a road in south Delhi. The woman, who came to be known as "Nirbhaya", died on December 29 in a Singapore hospital.
Six men were arrested for the horrifying assault. A fifth accused -- Ram Singh -- allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail during the trial and the sixth man, a few months short of 18 at the time of the incident, was released after three years in a reform facility.
With input from ANI