Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, JJ has dismissed the Special Leave Petition filed by Pawan Kumar Gupta, one of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya Gang rape case where he “reagitated” the plea of juvenility. The Court said,

“once a convict has chosen to take the plea of juvenility before the learned Magistrate, High Court and also before the Supreme Court and the said plea has been rejected up to the Supreme Court, the petitioner cannot be allowed to reagitate the plea of juvenility by filing fresh application under Section 7A of the JJ Act.”

Pawan Kumar had  contended that he was a juvenile under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 at the time of commission of the offence and that the same is apparent from the School Leaving Certificate. He claimed that as per his records, his date of birth is 08.10.1996 and therefore, on the date of alleged incident i.e. 16.12.2012, the petitioner was aged only 16 years 02 months and 08 days.

This, however, was not the first time that the petitioner had raised the plea of juvenility. When the matter was pending before the trial court, plea of juvenility was raised by the petitioner at the first instance. The trial court directed the Investigating Officer to file a report regarding the documents he has relied upon to determine the age of the accused. Upon consideration of the report of the Investigating Officer, the Metropolitan Magistrate had held that the age verification report of the petitioner Pawan Kumar Gupta was received and that the accused did not dispute the age verification report filed by the Investigating Officer and further, he did not dispute the age to be above 18 years at the time of commission of the offence.

He had also raised the plea of juvenility in the review petition before the Supreme Court which was also rejected by the Court vide order dated 09.07.2018. The Court, hence, noticed.

“Considering the earlier orders passed by the Metropolitan Magistrate dated 10.01.2013 and the judgment of the High Court dated 13.03.2014 and the order passed by the Supreme Court dated 09.07.2018, in our view, the learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court rightly dismissed the revision petition.”

This rejection of SLP and earlier review and curative petitions has brought the death row convicts one more step closer to hanging that is scheduled to take place on February 1, 2020 after a Delhi Court issued fresh death warrants against all 4 convicts. Earlier the hanging was scheduled to take place tomorrow i.e. on January 22, 2020.

The 23-year-old paramedic student, referred to as Nirbhaya, was gang raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 in a moving bus in south Delhi by six people before being thrown out on the road. She died on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

One of the six accused in the case, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail here.

On July 9, 2018 , the Court had dismissed the review pleas filed by the three convicts in the case, saying no grounds have been made out by them for review of the 2017 verdict.

On December 18, 2019, the 3-judge bench of R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, JJ rejected the review petition of the last convict, Akshay Kumar Singh, seeking modification and leniency.

A juvenile, who was among the accused, was convicted by a juvenile justice board and was released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term. Two of the convicts are yet to file curative petitions before the Supreme Court.

[Pawan Kumar Gupta v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 48, decided on 20.01.2020]

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