The Supreme Court on Wednesday “confirmed” the capital punishment awarded to one of the four convicts in the gruesome Nirbhaya gang rape-and-murder case by dismissing his plea which sought review of its 2017 judgment upholding his death penalty.
IMAGE: Nirbhaya rape victim’s parents show victory sign after a hearing at the Supreme Court, in New Delhi. The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the plea filed by one of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, seeking review of its 2017 judgment upholding his death penalty. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo
With this verdict on the plea of convict Akshay Kumar Singh, the review petitions of all the four death row convicts in the case stand dismissed by the apex court.
The convicts are yet to file curative petition which is the last legal recourse available to a person and it is generally considered in-chamber by the top court.
On July 9 last year, the top court had dismissed the review pleas filed by the other three convicts — Mukesh, 30, Pawan Gupta, 23, and Vinay Sharma, 24 — in the case, saying no grounds have been made out by them for the review.
Dismissing the plea of Akshay, who was the cleaner of the bus in which the incident took place, a 3-judge bench headed by Justice R Banumathi said there was no “error apparent on the face of the record” and none of the grounds raised by him call for review of the 2017 judgment.
“The review petition is not for re-hearing of the appeal on reappreciation of the evidence over and over again. A party is not entitled to seek review of the judgment merely for the purpose of rehearing of the appeal and a fresh decision,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna.
“In light of the aggravating circumstances and considering that the case falls within the category of ‘rarest of rare cases’, the death penalty is confirmed,” it said.
The top court announced the verdict within hours of having reserved it Wednesday morning. The parents of the victim were also present in the court.
In the 20-page judgment, the bench termed as “unfortunate” that grounds like “futility of awarding death sentence in ‘Kalyug’ where a person is no better than a dead body” and “level of pollution in Delhi-NCR is so great that life is short” were raised in the review plea.
“We find it unfortunate that such grounds have been raised in the matter as serious as the present case,” it said.
“We do not find any error apparent on the face of the record in the appreciation of evidence or the findings of the judgment dated May 5, 2017. None of the grounds raised in the review petition call for review of the judgment dated May 5, 2017. The review petition is dismissed,” the bench said.
The top court said the grounds raised in Akshay’s review petition were “almost repetition of the arguments” raised in the earlier review pleas filed by other convicts which were rejected and these issues cannot be “raised repeatedly”.
Regarding other grounds raised by Akshay’s counsel A P Singh, including alleged flaws in the probe and manipulation of evidence, the bench said these aspects were already dealt with and rejected by it in the 2017 judgement and “same points cannot be urged again and again”.
The bench also dealt with Singh’s submissions regarding a book titled ‘Black Warrant’, written by former law officer of Tihar jail Sunil Gupta.
Singh argued that the officer had expressed his opinion in the book that accused Ram Singh, who had allegedly committed suicide in the jail, was “murdered” in prison on March 11, 2013.
“Here again, the opinion of the said former law officer Sunil Gupta is only his opinion which is not supported by any material,” the bench said.
“The opinion of the said officer… which is not supported by any material, cannot be a ground for reviewing our judgment,” it added.
It also dealt with Singh’s allegations that the sole eye-witness, present in the bus along with the victim, had taken “heavy amount as bribe” for giving statements in the media when the trial was on at Saket district court.
“In a criminal case, culpability or otherwise of the accused are based upon appreciation of evidence adduced by the prosecution and also the evidence adduced by the defence,” it said.
“The materials or the news emerging in the media and press as also the news channels cannot be taken note of in arriving at a conclusion on the culpability of the accused or to test credibility of the witness. Such events cannot be urged as a ground for review,” the bench said.
It also brushed aside the convict’s contention questioning the three dying declarations of the victim and said this argument was already rejected in the 2017 verdict which held them credible.
It rejected Akshay’s contentions that he was not present in Delhi on the night of the incident.
Referring to several verdicts of the top court, the bench said it is not for the court to re-appreciate evidence and reach at a different conclusion while adjudicating review plea.
After the verdict was pronounced, Akshay’s counsel sought three weeks to file mercy petition before the President.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that one week is prescribed under the law for filing the mercy petition.
“We are not expressing our view in this regard. If as per the law any time is available to the petitioner, it is for the petitioner to avail the remedy of filing mercy petition within that stipulated time,” the bench said.
The 23-year-old paramedic student was gang raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a moving bus in south Delhi by six persons before being thrown out on the road.
She died on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.
A juvenile was convicted by a juvenile justice board, and released from a reformation home after serving a 3-year term.
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