Suffering in prison cannot be grounds for mercy, the Supreme Court said today, dismissing a Nirbhaya convict's petition challenging rejection of mercy by the President. "It cannot be said that the President did not apply his mind," the Supreme Court said to convict Mukesh Singh's petition.
The convict had said that President Ram Nath Kovind had rejected his mercy petition in haste, without applying his mind, and had not been fully informed about his situation. He had claimed sexual assault and torture in jail and also solitary confinement in violation of prison rules.
"All relevant documents were placed before the President by the home ministry. Merely because of quick consideration, it can't be said that the President didn't apply his mind," said a three-judge bench.
Taking note of Mukesh Singh's allegations of assault in jail, the judges asserted: "Sufferings in prison can't be grounds for mercy."
Mukesh Singh's lawyer had argued that all records were not sent to President Kovind, so his decision to reject mercy was "arbitrary and malafide".
"You are playing with somebody's life. You have to apply your mind," said the convict's lawyer, Anjana Prakash. She claimed Mukesh Singh was "repeatedly sexually abused in jail" and was kept in solitary confinement even before his mercy petition was rejected.
Arguing for Delhi Police, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said: "Sometimes, medical health and condition of death row convicts has deteriorated so much so that they cannot be given death penalty but in this case, the medical condition of this (Mukesh) convict, is fine."
Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Kumar Sharma and Akshay Kumar are to hang on Saturday at 6 am. A curative petition filed last night by Akshay Kumar may mean that the hanging will be put off for the second time. The original date -- January 22 -- had been pushed back because of Mukesh Singh's mercy petition.
The convicts have been filing eleventh-hour in a desperate attempt to stall their hanging for the 2012 gangrape, torture and killing of a young medical student in Delhi. The woman, who came to be known as Nirbhaya (fearless), died a fortnight after the horrific assault.
Welcoming today's verdict, Nirbhaya's mother said: "They committed the crime together. All their petitions should be dealt with together so they cannot delay justice."
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.