India's Central Government Minister Prakash Javadekar has slammed the city government of Delhi over the delay in hanging the four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case as ordered by the court recently.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Javadekar in a press meet said it was delayed because of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government's negligence. "AAP is responsible for the delay in justice. Why did the Delhi government not give notice to the convicts to file mercy pleas in the last two-and-a-half years?"
A senior Delhi-based criminal lawyer M.S. Khan said the political parties should avoid playing games in such a sensitive matter.
"It is just a judicial right of the convict who can file the mercy plea whenever he wants. There is no role of any government in pushing or delaying in the filing of the plea. I would request all the political parties not to play blame games in the legal proceedings," Khan said.
Earlier this month, a Delhi Sessions Court had handed down the death sentence to the four men found guilty of raping and causing grievous injury to a 23-year-old woman in 2012. She had died at a Singapore hospital after her condition had deteriorated at a hospital in New Delhi.
Javedekar's statement came after the Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra on Wednesday stated that given the Delhi prison rules, despite the mercy petition not being filed within the mandated period, jail authorities have to wait for the President's decision on the mercy plea.
"If the mercy petition is rejected, Mukesh [one of the convicts] will also be entitled to a period of 14 days to avail the remedies, and subsequently a fresh warrant will have to be issued by the trial court. Currently, Mukesh's mercy petition is with the Department of Home Affairs," Mehra told the court on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, two of the convicts, Mukesh Singh and Vinay Sharma, filed curative petitions in the Supreme Court of India. But the court dismissed them, paving the way for their executions on 22 January. The trial held on 7 January issued death warrants for the four convicts.
Earlier in December, the President of India had rejected the mercy pleas of another accused in the case, Vinay Kumar.
The Nirbhaya gang-rape case is related to a 2012 incident which occurred in a moving bus and involved six men who sexually assaulted a 23-year-old woman.
It happened on the night of 16 December 2012 in South Delhi's Munirka area. The crime triggered an outcry in across India, with people coming out onto the streets, demanding safety and security for women.
One of the key accused, Ram Singh, committed suicide while in custody. Another was a juvenile at the time of the crime and was sent to a reformatory for three years. The remaining four - Akshay, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma, and Mukesh Singh - were set to be hanged on 22 January.