The adage, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’ may be used to criticise the court order that deferred until further orders the execution of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, scheduled for 6 am on March 3.
But the order is testimony to the rigor and righteousness of a judicial system which does a ‘cymini sectore’ or threadbare examination of the legalities involved and the rights of all, including the convicts.
The judge, in such contexts, faces a dual task: ensuring justice delivery and adhere to the due process of law diligently in the face of heavy public and media frenzy that would seek quick ‘remedial’ action.
Following the due process may delay justice, as is being claimed, but averts a situation where the credibility and impartiality of the judiciary is questioned. So, in the larger interest of justice, the courts of law ensure that every litigant gets to exhaust every legal option available.
In the Nirbhaya case, the four convicts facing the gallows are Mukesh Kumar Singh, 32; Pawan Gupta, 25; Vinay Kumar Sharma, 26; and Akshay Kumar, 31.
While deferring the execution on Monday (March 2), just a day ahead of the scheduled day of hanging, Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana said the death sentence cannot be executed pending disposal of mercy petition of convict Pawan Kumar Gupta.
The judge made a profound remark which at once could be the answer to the proponents of the ‘knee-jerk’ justice delivery theory and reaffirm that the well-laid procedures that ensure justice to all.
Judge Rana said, “Despite stiff resistance from the victim’s side, I am of the opinion that any condemned convict must not meet his Creator with a grievance in his bosom that the courts of this country has not acted in granting him an opportunity to exhaust his legal remedies.”
The ‘due diligence’ and the willingness of the court to trudge up the laborious brink of ‘proprietary’ justice delivery is exemplary and laudable.
The court on Monday (March 2) passed the order deferring the hanging on Pawan Gupta’s plea (seeking to stay the execution) as his mercy plea was pending with President Ram Nath Kovind. Sources said the petition was pending before the President and would be rejected in all likelihood.
The Tihar jail authorities, during the hearing, said the ball was in the government’s court, after filing of the mercy petition, and the judge had ‘limited’ role now. They said the President would seek a status report from the jail on Pawan’s mercy plea and when that happens, it will suo motu stay the execution.
The court was undoubtedly aware of the ‘delaying tactic’ being used by the convicts, and also issued a warning on it on Monday. While hearing the plea, Judge Rana rapped convict Gupta’s lawyer for acting so late in filing the curative and mercy pleas.
The court pulled up lawyer AP Singh saying, “You are playing with fire, you should be cautious… one wrong move by anybody, and you know the consequences.”