SC rejects Delhi gang rape convicts’ review pleas against death sentence

On May 5, 2017, the apex court upheld the capital punishment awarded to the four convicts by the Delhi High Court and the trial court.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the petitions filed by the 2012 Delhi gang rape convicts to review the death penalty awarded to them.

The paramedic student was gang-raped on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a moving bus in South Delhi. She died on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

A Special Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices R. Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan rejected the condemned convicts’ plea for a relook into their case on the ground that they were not properly represented by lawyers during the trial and vital pieces of evidence in their favour was not brought before the court.

On May 5, 2017, the same Bench upheld the death sentence awarded by the Delhi High Court and the trial court to Mukesh (29), Pawan Gupta (22), Vinay Sharma (23) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31).

On Monday, Justice Bhushan, who spoke for the Bench in his judgment, said convicts cannot reargue their entire case in the guise of a review petition. The ambit and scope of a review petition was well-defined, and could only be entertained if there was judicial fallibility, miscarriage of justice and error apparent in the earlier apex court judgment, in this case the May 2017 verdict.

Now, the convicts are left only with the rare remedy of filing a curative petition. They have to show there was judicial bias against them. The curative would be heard by the three seniormost judges of the apex court and the judges on the Bench. In this case, the CJI has led the review Bench.

Order reserved in May last on review pleas

On May 4, 2018, the same three-judge Bench then reserved the order after hearing arguments on behalf of convicts Sharma and Gupta, who sought a review of the 2017 verdict upholding the death penalty awarded to them.

The court had earlier reserved its verdict on a review petition filed by Mukesh.

Advocate A.P. Singh, for Sharma and Gupta, argued that death penalty was “cold-blooded killing.”

Another accused in the case, Ram Singh, died in the Tihar Jail and a convicted juvenile was released from the reformation home after serving a three-year term as per the Juvenile Justice Act.

The case led to the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code to make rape punishable with the death penalty.

In its May 2017 judgment, the court concluded that the convicts “found an object for enjoyment in her… for their gross, sadistic and beastly pleasures… for the devilish manner in which they played with her dignity and identity is inhumane.”

Justice Banumathi had said “there is not even a hint of hesitation in my mind” in sending the men to their deaths. “If at all there is a case warranting award of the death sentence, it is the present case,” she wrote in her separate concurring judgment.

“Where a crime is committed with extreme brutality and the collective conscience of the society is shocked, courts must award the death penalty. By not imposing the death sentence, the courts may do injustice to society at large,” she observed.

The brutality of the crime had compelled the CJI to note in his May 2017 opinion that the case sounded “like a story from a different world where humanity has been treated with irreverence.”

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