Mukesh is the only convict in the Nirbhaya gangrape-murder case who had confessed to the crime in the trial court, but he retracted it later in the Delhi High Court.
The countdown for the hanging of four death-row convicts of Nirbhaya case has begun with the session court’s death warrant directing Tihar Jail to hang them at 6 am on March 20.
All the four convicts maintain that they are innocent and have been falsely implicated in the case.
However, strong circumstantial evidence and Nirbhaya’s boyfriend's account, who was the sole eye-witness in the case, established their involvement in the gang-rape and murder. All the three courts found these evidences beyond reasonable doubt.
Mukesh’s confession helped in conviction
One of the most crucial developments during the trial of the case was confessional statement of Mukesh Singh, then an accused.
He told the court that he was at the driver’s seat when the victim and her boyfriend boarded the bus. He also confirmed the presence of other accused Pawan, Vinay, Akshay, a juvenile boy and Ram Singh (then a deceased). He went on to admit the girl and her boyfriend had boarded the bus and he learnt later that a quarrel broke out but he kept driving the bus.
“..He stated that the other accused persons put off the lights inside the bus at the flyover of Malai Mandir and thereafter he did not know what they had done with the prosecutrix (Nirbhaya) or the complainant (her boyfriend),” The Delhi High Court’s judgement said while reproducing a part of trial court proceedings.
It added, “...He stated that the prosecutrix and the complainant were thrown out by stopping the bus at the spot near Mahipalpur flyover, though added that he did not know who had thrown them out of the bus as the light inside the bus was put off.”
He never admitted that he saw anyone raping and brutally assaulting the victim. About himself, he maintained the he remained at the driver’s seat at all time.
According to the lawyers involved in the case, the judge had warned Mukesh that the statement could go against him.
“Whenever an accuse makes a confessional statement, the trial court judge always alerts him that the statement can harm him. It is done to let the accused know the gravity of his statement since most of the accused are illiterate and unaware of the consequence,” says ML Sharma, a lawyer, who had appeared for Pawan Gupta in the trial court.
AP Singh, a lawyer, who represented other convicts, said, “Mukesh retracted from his statement in the Delhi High Court. We had told the court that he was pressurised to say so. His brother Ram Singh’s hanging in jail, which was shown as suicide, was a brutal murder. He feared for his life too and that’s why he confessed.”
Ram Singh, the fifth accuse, had allegedly committed suicide in Tihar during the trial of the case.
The remaining three convicts provided evidences to show that they were not in the bus at the time of the crime. Pawan and Vinay said that they had gone to watch a musical show while Akshay said that he had left for his village in Bihar on December 15 (a day before the incident) on his brother’s ticket.
“I still remember how Mukesh’s confession brought cheer on the face of Delhi police officers present in the court. They knew that it was big win for them. It helped them prove the crime,” One of the relative of the convicts said.
Mukesh’s statement in BBC documentary
Besides Mukesh’s confessional statement before the session judge, he also gave an interview to BBC in July 2013 which was released in 2015. The government banned the documentary and constituted an enquiry on how a member of the BBC crew was allowed to enter Tihar Jail to interview the accused.
In the documentary, he reiterated the same stand that he kept driving the bus all the time. His lawyer again alleged that he was pressurised to say so.
Interestingly, Sunil Gupta, the then law officer in Tihar Jail, says that he had objected to the permission granted to BBC team by the then Director General, Vimla Mehra, but she didn’t pay any heed to his reservations.
“Even today I fail to understand why Mehra was so keen to allow the BBC access inside Tihar,” Gupta says.
Vinay Sharma’s paintings of Nirbhaya
In the most recent instance, death convict Vinay Sharma made some paintings in which he depicted the victim (Nirbhaya), all four death row convicts including him and the four nooses. It is seen as his repentance for his involvement to the crime.
However, relatives of other death convicts say that Vinay was encouraged to do so on the false promise that if he admits his role, his death sentence might to be commuted to life.
“When I met him and asked about the paintings, he told me that jail authorities have advised him that if he makes any confession, it can lessen his sentence,” says a convicts’ relative.