One of the four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang rape case to be hanged on Saturday has challenged his execution using the last legal resort in the Supreme Court known as the curative petition. Akshay Singh, 31, is the third convict to challenge his hanging with the method in a case that has been criticised for its duration and his petition makes his hanging over the weekend unlikely.
The plea of Akshay Singh will be heard by the Supreme Court judges in their chambers tomorrow and not in an open court. After the curative petition is rejected, Akshay Singh will have the option to send a mercy plea to President Ram Nath Kovind.
Last month, the Supreme Court had rejected Akshay Singh's petition seeking a review of his death sentence after he filed a plea making bizarre claims, including citing Hindu religious texts and the Delhi pollution crisis as reasons why the hanging should not be carried out.
The top court on Wednesday also rejected a petition by one of the other convicts, Mukesh Kumar Singh, 32, who had challenged the rejection of his mercy request citing "non-application of mind" by the President of India.
Besides Akshay and Mukesh Singh, two others - Vinay Sharma, 26, and Pawan Gupta, 26, are due to be executed on Saturday at Delhi's Tihar jail. A fifth convict, who was a juvenile at the time of the crime, was sent to a remand home and later released.
Mukesh Singh and Vinay Sharma's curative petitions have already been rejected.
Last-minute petitions by the convicts have been widely seen as desperate attempts to stall their hanging. The delay has been criticised by many including parents of the woman who was raped and left to die.
The government last week asked the Supreme Court for a change in guidelines in death row cases so convicts cannot keep delaying the sentence by exploiting legal options. The current rules are skewed towards convicts and allows them to "play with the law and delay execution," the centre said in its petition.
On December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped and savagely assaulted on a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital, triggering a massive outpouring of public anger, and came to be known as "Nirbhaya" or fearless.