Supreme Court: Dismissing the petition filed Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder convict Mukesh Kumar Singh, challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by President Ram Nath Kovind, the 3-judge bench of R Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Ashok Bhushan, JJ said,

“Merely because there was quick consideration and rejection of the petitioner’s mercy petition, it cannot be assumed that the matter was proceeded with pre-determined mind.”

Mukesh Kumar had filed the writ petition against the President’s order rejecting his mercy petition and had sought commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment on the following grounds:

  • Relevant materials were not placed before the President of India and they were kept out of consideration while considering the mercy petition;
  • The mercy petition was rejected swiftly and there was pre-determined stance and complete non-application of mind in rejection of the mercy petition;
  • Solitary confinement of the petitioner for more than one and half years due to which the petitioner has developed severe psychiatric ailments;
  • Non-consideration of relevant circumstances like prisoners’ suffering in the prison and consideration of extraneous and irrelevant circumstances; and
  • Non-observance of established rules and guidelines in considering the petitioner’s mercy petition.

After hearing the matter at length for the entire day, the bench observed that

“By perusal of the note, we have seen that all the documents were taken into consideration and upon consideration of the relevant records and the facts and circumstances of the surrounding crime, the President has rejected the mercy petition. There is no merit in the contention that the relevant materials were kept out of the consideration of the President.”

The Court further noticed that where the power is vested in a very high authority, it must be presumed that the said authority would act carefully after an objective consideration of all the aspects of the matter.

On the argument relating to Solitary confinement of the prisoner, it was brought to the Court’s notice that for security reasons, the petitioner was kept in one ward having multiple single rooms and barracks and the said single room had iron bars open to air and the same cannot be equated with solitary confinement/single cell. It was further stated that the prisoner/petitioner who was kept in the single room comes out and mixes up with the other inmates in the prison on daily basis like other prisoners as per rules.

On the argument raised by Mukesh Kumar’s counsel that he was physically and sexually assaulted in Tihar jail and put under solitary confinement, the Court said,

“The alleged sufferings in the prison cannot be a ground for judicial review of the executive order passed under Article 72 of the Constitution rejecting the petitioner’s mercy petition.”

The Court concluded by holding that the delay in disposal of mercy petition may be a ground calling for judicial review of the order passed under Article 72/161 of the Constitution, however,

“the quick consideration of the mercy petition and swift rejection of the same cannot be a ground for judicial review of the order passed under Article 72/161 of the Constitution. Nor does it suggest that there was pre-determined mind and non-application of mind.”

Four people, Mukesh Kumar Singh , Pawan Kumar Gupta, Vinay Kumar Sharma, and Akshay Kumar Singh, are facing execution on February 1 in the matter.

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. Besides Mukesh, three others – Akshay, Vinay, and Pawan are facing the gallows for the heinous crime that shook the entire nation. 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.

On January 21, 2020, the 3-judge bench of R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, JJ had 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.

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.

Another accused, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail in March 2013 during the trial. Another convict, who was a minor at the time of the crime, was sent to a reform facility and released after three years of the crime.

[Mukesh Kumar v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 96, decided on 29.01.2020]

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