Supreme Court: After a brief hearing on the review petition filed by Akshay Kumar Singh, one of the convicts in the brutal December 16, 2012, Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, seeking modification and leniency, the 3-judge bench of R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, JJ has rejected the review petition and said,

“We do not find any error apparent on the face of the record in the appreciation of evidence or the findings of the judgment dated 05.05.2017. None of the grounds raised in the review petition call for review of the judgment dated 05.05.2017.”

The bench headed by Banumathi, J held that the contentions assailing the case of the prosecution were all raised earlier and upon consideration of evidence, the same were rejected by this Court. Stating that review petition is not for re-hearing of the appeal on re-appreciation of the evidence over and over again, the Court said that a party is not entitled to seek review of the judgment merely for the purpose of rehearing of the appeal and a fresh decision.

The grounds raised in the review petition were:

  • futility of awarding death sentence in Kalyug, where a person is no better than a dead body; and
  • that the level of pollution in Delhi NCR is so great that life is short anyhow and everyone is aware of what is happening in Delhi NCR in this regard and while so, there is no reason why death penalty should be awarded.

The Court said that it was unfortunate that such grounds were raised in the matter as serious as the present case.

During the hearing, the convict’s advocate, Dr. AP Singh had argued that death penalty is a primitive method of punishment and that execution kills the criminals and not the crime. He also said that use of death penalty doesn’t seem to have a deterrent effect to criminals and convicts. He also argued that only the poor and downtrodden are more likely to be sentenced with death sentence. The Court, however, said that

“Such general contentions put forth against the capital punishment cannot be gone into in this review petition.”

On the submission that because of the media pressure, the petitioner and other accused have been falsely implicated, the Court held,

“In a criminal case, culpability or otherwise of the accused are based upon appreciation of evidence adduced by the prosecution and also the evidence adduced by the defence. The materials or the news emerging in the media and press as also the news channels cannot be taken note of in arriving at a conclusion on the culpability of the accused or to test credibility of the witness. Such events cannot be urged as a ground for review.”

On the question of award of death sentence, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Court that there are certain crimes where “humanity cries” and Nirbhaya case was one of them. He added,

“Convict doesn’t deserve any leniency, God would feel ashamed on creating such monster.”

The Court noticed that the mitigating circumstances elaborated upon by the defence by way of highlighting the comparatively young age of the convicts, their socio-economic background, their unblemished antecedents and their chances of reformation, fade into insignificance. It, hence, held,

“In light of the aggravating circumstances and considering that the case falls within the category of “rarest of rare cases”, the death penalty is confirmed.”

After the Court held that it found no grounds for review of 2017 verdict upholding death penalty of convict, the convict’s advocate, Dr. AP Singh sought 3-weeks’ time to file mercy petition before President. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, countered the submission by saying that one week’s time is prescribed under law for filing mercy petition before President. The bench headed by Banumathi, J, however, refrained from expressing view on time frame to file mercy petition and said,

“whatever time is prescribed under law, convict can avail remedy of filing mercy plea within it.”

The Court had on May 5, 2017, upheld the death sentence of all the four convicts in the brutal December 16 gangrape and murder case. The Court, while dismissing the appeal of the four convicts, had said that the crime fell in the rarest of rare category and “shaken the conscience of the society.” Writing down a 429 page long judgment, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, R. Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan, JJ  had noticed that attacking the deceased by forcibly disrobing her and committing violent sexual assault by all the appellants; and insertion of rod in her private parts that, inter alia, caused perforation of her intestine which caused sepsis and, ultimately, led to her death, shows that the accused persons had found an  object for enjoyment in her and, as is evident, they were obsessed with the singular purpose sans any feeling to ravish her as they liked, treat her as they felt and the gross sadistic and beastly instinctual pleasures came to the forefront when they, after ravishing her, thought it to be just a matter of routine to throw her alongwith her friend out of the bus and crush them. The Court said that the casual manner with which she was treated and the devilish manner in which they played with her identity and dignity is humanly inconceivable.

The Court had also rejected the review petition of the other 3 convicts on July 9, 2018.

[Akshay Kumar Singh v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1653, decided on 18.12.2019]

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