New Delhi: Against the backdrop of delay in execution of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, the Supreme Court has issued guidelines for speedy hearing of criminal appeals involving death penalty. For hearing an appeal against the cases of death sentence, the SC has fixed a deadline of six months, from the date of the verdict of the high court,

In the circular dated February 12, which was made public on Friday, it is mentioned that in a matter wherein the High Court has confirmed/ upheld death penalty and this court has granted leave (admission of case), the criminal appeals will be listed for hearing not later than six months before the three-judges bench from the date of grant of leave, irrespective of the fact that appeal is ready or not.

“As soon as an SLP (special leave petition) involving death penalty is filed, a communication from the Registry may be sent to the court appealed from, seeking certificate of service as well as original record within a period of thirty days from the receipt of such intimation or further within such period as may be directed by the Court. The record will be sent along with the translated copy of the documents which may be in vernacular language.

It further said that on grant of leave by the Supreme Court, the Registry may insist for filing of additional documents by the parties within a period of thirty days after the receipt of intimation in this regard.

“In the event records or additional documents have not been received/filed, the matter may be listed before judges concerned in chambers with appropriate office report for directions, instead of listing the matter before the Registrar Court as per the existing practice”, the circular read.

The guidelines come after four convicts— Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31) in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case of 2012 adopted several tactics to delay the  execution.

The first order for execution of death sentence, issued on January 7 for January 22, was stayed on January 17. The second warrant, issued on January 17, for February 1 was stayed on January 31 ’till further orders’.  In both the cases, mercy pleas were pending before the President. On February 5, the High Court told the convicts to exhaust all legal remedies within a week.

Earlier in the day, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice R Banumathi, dismissed Vinay Sharma’s petition, challenging the rejection of his mercy plea by the President. “We don’t see any ground to interfere with the decision of the honourable President,” the bench had said.  Following this, both Mukesh and Vinay exhausted all their legal options, inching closer to execution.

(With agency inputs)