New Delhi: The probable delay in the execution of Nirbhaya rapists took a political colour on Thursday as Union minister Prakash Javadekar blamed the Delhi government for dragging its feet on the issue.

“The hanging of the convicts in 2012 Delhi gang-rape case is now delayed because of Delhi govt’s negligence. AAP is responsible for the delay in justice. Why did Delhi govt not give notice to the convicts for filing mercy plea in last two-and-a-half years?” the minister said.

The four convicts — Vinay Sharma (26), Mukesh Kumar (32), Akshay Kumar Singh (31) and Pawan Gupta (25) — were scheduled to be hanged on January 22 at 7 AM in Tihar jail as a Delhi court issued their death warrants on January 7.

A debate flared up in the Delhi High Court on Wednesday when the Tihar Jail authorities told before the judge that the execution of the convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case cannot take place on January 22, under prison guidelines, as a mercy plea has already been filed.

According to the rules, the execution can take place only 14 days after a decision is taken on mercy plea. As a result, the execution date may be postponed as the government will have to wait until the President gives his decision.

On Thursday, the Delhi Government rejected Mukesh Singh’s mercy petition, which he filed after the Supreme Court rejected his curative plea early this week. Now, the newly filed mercy plea is the only remaining appeal against the death penalty, which has been passed on to the Lieutenant Governor, who then forwarded it to the home ministry.