Even though a Delhi Court has issued a fresh death warrant to hang four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case on February 1, legal provisions and judicial precedents set by the Supreme Court will, once again, make it impossible to send the accused to the gallows. Outlook has analysed these legal provisions with lawyers, who are unanimous in the view that execution of the death sentence, may take another month, if not more.
Fourteen-day cushion period after the dismissal of mercy petition: The Delhi Jail Manual categorically says a death convict should be given 14 days after the dismissal of his mercy petition by the President. Two convicts in the case are yet to file their mercy petitions.
SC judgment, too, mandates 14-day breather: Besides the Jail manual, a 2014 Supreme Court judgment in the Shatrughan Chauhan vs Union of India says, “It is necessary that a minimum period of 14 days be stipulated between the receipt of communication of the rejection of the mercy petition and the scheduled date of execution...”
A dispute over the mercy petition of a convict: One of the convicts, Vinay, has disputed having filed a petition, though the Delhi government says the convict has sought clemency. In a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, Vinay alleged the mercy petition filed in his name is a conspiracy by the jail authorities. Both –- his "disputed" mercy petition and his letter are now with the President. “If the President rejects his plea for mercy, he can challenge the genuineness of the mercy petition in a court of law which can prolong his execution. If the President accepts the letter, then again not only does he an opportunity to file another mercy petition, he could ask for an enquiry of the alleged conspiracy,” says a lawyer, requesting anonymity.
Two convicts yet to file a curative petition: Two convicts -- Pawan Gupta and Akshay -- haven't filed a curative petition yet. Their lawyer has confirmed that he would file the said petition on their behalf in the SC. The Jail Manual says a death row convict should be given seven days to file mercy petition after his curative petition is rejected. This confirms that the execution can go beyond February 1.
Hanging of all four convicts will happen simultaneously: The law as well as the Jail manual mandate that all four convicts will go to the gallows together. So the final execution date depends on the rejection of the last mercy petition. Considering the available judicial remedies and provisions for a breather, the new death warrant for Feb 1 could very well face the same fate as the one issued by the Delhi court earlier this month, which had set January 22 as the date of execution.