New Delhi: The Delhi court on Sunday reserved order on Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) and Tihar jail’s plea challenging the trial court’s order which had stayed the execution of the convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case.  The MHA had approached the court seeking execution of at least two of the convicts-Mukesh Singh and Vinay Sharma.

Arguing on behalf of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked the Delhi High Court to stay the trial court order. “Order (stay on hanging) passed by the trial court deserves to be stayed. Every convict is enjoying defeating the judicial system in the country”, Mehta told the HC.

Notably, the four were scheduled to be executed at 6 AM on February 1 but the trial court on Saturday postponed their hanging due to Vinay filing a mercy petition before the President earlier that day. President Kovind had also rejected his mercy petition after which the Centre moved the court.

While giving his submission in the court, Mehta asserted that there cannot be any delay in the interest of justice, death sentence cannot be delayed. “In the interest of the convict, any delay in death sentence will have a dehumanising effect on the accused. There was a deliberate delay on part of the convict and prompt response on part of the institution”, he stated.

Citing rules of Delhi prison the Solicitor General said that in case of co-convicts, convicts have to be hanged together only if an ‘appeal or application’ is pending. “This ‘appeal or application’ doesn’t include mercy petitions. They are separate and cannot be included in this”, he told the HC.

Accusing the the convicts of ‘acting in tandem’, Mehta further asserted,”Law requires a 14 days notice period to be given to the convicts to take care of their affairs before they are hanged. In this case, on 13th day, a convict will file some plea and then ask for a warrant to be stayed against all.”

“Mercy jurisdiction is always a personal jurisdiction. The President may show mercy towards a convict because of his circumstances. How will that be applicable to other convicts?” he asked.

Countering Mehta, advocate AP Singh appearing for gangrape convicts (Pawan, Akshay& Vinay) said,”There is no prescribed time given to execute the death sentence by the Supreme Court and Constitution.”

Singh also raised question on Delhi HC’s haste in the matter. “Why only in this case there is a hurry? Justice hurried is justice buried”, he claimed, adding, the convicts belong to poor Dalit families and cannot be made to bear brunt of ambiguity in the law.

Meanwhile, advocate Rebecca John,  who was arguing on behalf of convict Mukesh stated that Centre just woke up yesterday. “Why did they not move anything earlier? You cannot condemn me for using my legal remedies. Constitution allows me to exercise those options till the last breath of my life”, he said.

Advocate Rebecca John argued that this is composite sentence which is upheld by the High Court and Supreme Court. “Common sentence, common execution; that’s all that I am seeking here. I am a horrible person, I have committed the worst crime imaginable. But I am still entitled to protection under Article 21. Even as a death row convict, I have a right to be treated fairly”, the advocate said on behalf of convict Mukesh.

“Centre when says that there is no prohibition on single execution, they have no power to de-link the execution. An affirmative power to separately hang co-convicts is absent in the Delhi Prison Rules”, he claimed.

The court had yesterday issued a notice to DG Tihar, Tihar Jail authorities and the four death row convicts, seeking their reply in this regard.