Nirbhaya gang rape case study

This article is written by Abhay, a student from Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, NMIMS. This is an exhaustive article which deals with various aspects associated with Nirbhaya Verdict, an incident which had shocked the whole nation.


The murder and rape incident of the 2012 Delhi gang-involved a rape and violent attack that happened on 16 December 2012. The incident occurred when a 23-year-old female was assaulted, gang-raped, and brutalised in a private bus that the girl and her male friend had boarded. 

The bus had six men, including the driver, all of them raped the woman and also beat her friend. She was later admitted to a hospital in Singapore for emergency medical care after 11 days of the attack. Unfortunately, she died after two days of treatment. This incident created widespread worldwide attention and was harshly condemned in India as well as abroad. 

As the Indian law does not permit the press to disclose the name of a rape victim as per Section 228A(c), the survivor has been commonly recognized as Nirbhaya, indicating “fearless,” and her fight and demise has become a representation of the protest of women against rape. However, on the day of a demonstration on 16 December 2015, the victim’s mother said that the name of the victim was Jyoti Singh, and she was not embarrassed to disclose her identity.

After the Incident

The six accused involved in the brutal gang rape were bus driver Ram Singh, Mukesh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur and a juvenile. On Jan 2, 2013, then India’s Chief Justice Altamas Kabir inaugurated a fast track court (FTC) for speedy trial in cases of sexual offences. Police filed a charge sheet against five adults and arrested them for crimes like murder, gangrape, assassination attempt, abduction, unnatural offences and dacoity etc. 

Court accepted in-camera hearings over the charge sheet and instructions. FTC opened proceedings against the five adult defendants on 17 Jan 2013. FTC framed charges against five accused adults. Meanwhile, on 11 March, Ram Singh committed suicide at Tihar Jail in Delhi. FTC completed recording of prosecution witness testimonials. 

The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) stated that the minority (age) of the accused juvenile offender was proven. JJB framed charges against the minor. Later, an Inquiry (trial) in JJB took place against the juvenile.  JJB  held minor guilty for taking part in the gangrape,  and also unlawfully capturing and robbing a carpenter. JJB convicted the minor in connection with gangrape and murder case and granted a three-year sentence at a probation home.

FTC filed charges against five accused adults. Delhi HC authorized national media to cover proceedings at the trial court. FTC completed recording of testimonies given by the witness of the prosecution. After Ram Singh ‘s suicide, FTC started hearing final arguments against four adult defendants in the trial. FTC concluded the trial and convicted Mukesh, Vinay, Akshay, Pawan of 13 crimes including gangrape, unn
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atural offence, the girl’s murder and attempted to kill her male friend. The court sentenced the four convicts to death.

Offences and associated punishments

After the matter had been put before the Court of Session, all the accused were charged with the following offences. The offences include-

  1. Punishment of criminal conspiracy as mentioned in Section 120(B) IPC –  Anyone who is a party to a criminal conspiracy, which is undertaken to execute an offence punishable by death, life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for a period of two years or more, shall be punished in the very same way as if he had committed that offence. Any person who is a party to a criminal conspiracy apart from the ones already mentioned shall be punished with imprisonment of either term not exceeding six months or with fine or perhaps both.
  2. Kidnapping or abduction with the purpose of confining a person secretly and unjustly as mentioned in Section 365 IPC –  Any individual kidnapping or abducting a person in order to confine secretly, unjustly and wrongfully shall be punished with the imprisonment of either a period of up to seven years and may also be liable for fines.
  3. Kidnapping, abducting or compelling a woman to marry, etc. as mentioned in Section 366 IPC – Any person who kidnaps or abducts a woman with the intention that she may be forced into marriage with any individual without her will or that she may be coerced or seduced into unlawful sexual intercourse shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a period of up to 10 years and shall also be liable for fines.
  4. Attempt to murder as mentioned in Section 307 – Anyone who acts with a motive or understanding in order to commit a murder and under those conditions that he could be guilty of murder by the commission of that act shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a term of up to ten years, and shall also be liable for fines.
  5. When a woman is raped by one or more person in a group who act in support of their mutual purpose, each one will be considered to have committed gang rape as mentioned in Section 376(2)(g) IPC. They shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a period of ten years which may also last for life and will also be liable to pay fines as well. But the court can impose a prison sentence for a period of less than ten years for certain acceptable and precise reasons.
  6. Dacoity with murder as mentioned in Section 396 IPC – When any of five or more persons who collectively commit dacoity, also commit murder while committing the dacoity, each of those persons shall be punished with death or life sentence, or maybe seriously imprisoned for a period of up to ten years, and shall also be liable for fines.
  7. Punishment for murder as mentioned in Section 302 IPC – One who commits murder shall be punished with death, or life imprisonment, and shall also be liable for fines.
  8. Punishment for dacoity as mentioned in Section 395 IPC – Anyone who commits dacoity shall be punished with either life imprisonment or a rigorous imprisonment for a period of up to ten years, and shall also be liable for fines.
  9. Robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous injury as mentioned in Section 397 IPC –  If the offender uses a deadly weapon at the time of the robbery or dacoity in order to cause grievous harm to any individual, or an attempt to cause death or grievous injury to any person, the offender shall be punished with an imprisonment of not less than seven years.
  10. Cause evidence of offence to disappear or give false information to screen offenders as mentioned in Section 201 IPC – Knowing or having reason to believe an offence has been committed, a person can cause evidence of the commission of that offence to disappear with the intention of screening the offend­er from legal punishment. If the offence is punishable with death, the offender is liable to imprisonment of either description for a term of seven years, and also to fine. If the offence is punishable with life imprisonment, then the offender is liable to imprisonment of either description for a term of three years and is also liable to pay fine etc.
  11. Unjustly receiving property stolen in the commission of dacoity as mentioned in Section 412 IPC – Anyone who dishonestly receives or possesses any stolen property and believes that perhaps the property has indeed been passed by the commission of dacoity shall be punished with life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for a period that may stretch to ten years, and shall also be liable to pay fines.


The proceedings at the trial court

The prosecution had pleaded that given the crime that was committed by the convicts they deserved the death sentence. The counsel for the convict, however, argued extensively and brought up some issues that need to be considered at the time of awarding the sentence. 

The issues were:

  1. The young age of the convicts.
  2. The socio-economic condition of the convicts, as they were poor and had families to support;
  3. Clean history and a chance to reform;
  4. Presumption of innocence to their advantage;
  5. Life imprisonment being the norm and death being an exception, with no special criteria in this case to award the sentence of death;
  6. They are only convicted on the grounds of conspiracy and not because of their respective acts;
  7.  Mukesh and  Pawan were intoxicated at the time of the event and also that Mukesh was accused of driving the bus all the way.

To impose a death sentence, the court must first consider the aggravating circumstances against mitigating circumstances and where there are no mitigating circumstances, the court must then apply the Rarest of Rare test to determine whether the case falls within that category.

Cases relied while giving the judgement

  1. In Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that gross depravity provided a valid and special reason for the sentence of death. The excessively inhuman or beastly manner in which the murder commission has taken acts as an established indicator of the depraved nature of the perpetrator. Furthermore, it is not appropriate to accept the circumstances of the crime and the circumstances of the perpetrator in two different watertight compartments. When a murder includes extreme depravity, it would be an aggravating case for the imposition of the death penalty.
  2. In Machhi Singh vs. State of Punjab, the court emphasized that the humanistic edifice forms the basis of the concept of “reverence for life. If a person breaches this principle by killing another member, the community is at stake. This action puts the society at risk. The death penalty can only be given in rarest of rare cases. If the collective conscience is so shocked that the community wants the holders of the judiciary to enforce the death sentence regardless of their subjective view as to whether or not it is beneficial to maintain the death penalty. Death penalty should be given if the murder is committed in an excessively barbaric, disgusting, diabolical, revolting, or ludicrous manner in order to stir up severe and serious indignation of the community and when the victim is subjected to horrific acts of abuse or cruelty in order to bring about the murder of the victim.
  3. In the case of Devender Pal Singh vs. State(NCT of Delhi), it was held that if the community’s collective conscience is so shocked, the court must pronounce the death penalty.
  4. In the case of Ram Singh vs. Sonia & Ors, it was held that it would be a failure in the system of justice to not hand out the death penalty, in a case where the crime was most grotesquely and revoltingly committed.
  5. In the case of C Munniappan vs. the State of Tamilnadu, it was held that the death penalty should be given in the manner the offence is committed. If it is committed in a very brutal, diabolical, grotesque and shocking to society’s collective conscience, then the death penalty must be provided.
  6. In the case of  Ajit Singh Harnamsingh Gujral v. State of Maharashtra, it was held that there is a need for a distinction to be made between ordinary murders and grotesque, ghastly or horrific murders. Although the life sentence in the former is to be issued, the latter falls into the category of the rarest cases, and so the death penalty should be issued.
  7. In the case of Sunder vs. State, it was held that the aggravating factors include if the accused was found guilty of two heinous offences, which are independent of one another, provides for the death penalty; no prior enmity between the two sides, no extreme and sudden provocation that compelled the accused to take a life;  or a serious mental perversion; as well as the brutality of the crime.

Coming to the issues that were raised by the convict’s counsel, one must know that the SC had repeatedly held that the accused’s young age is not by itself a determining factor against the death sentence being awarded. Instead, all the conditions must be taken together, and the proper weighing of each situation is needed. 

The Supreme Court instead re-held that the death sentence can be given despite the convict’s young age. This can be seen in the case of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab vs. State of Maharashtra and Atbir vs. State(NCT of Delhi)

The convict’s socio-economic status or the say that the crime was committed in the state of intoxication, can not be the deciding criteria in sentencing as it was held in the case of  State of Karnataka v. Krishnappa. Measurement of penalty in the context of rape can not be based on the social standing of the convicts or accused. 

It has to rely primarily on the behaviour of the accused, the state and age of the sexually assaulted female and the seriousness of the crime. In instances of the horrific act of rape against innocent vulnerable girls of tender age, the court must recognize the society’s loud call for justice, and react by imposing a reasonable punishment. 

Public abhorrence of the offence involves contemplation in the application by the court of a reasonable sentence. Showing mercy on such an abominable act would be a  transgression of justice and the appeal of leniency would be completely in the wrong position.

Ultimately, the plea of convict Mukesh was that by acknowledging that he was present inside the bus he had helped the system. This was seen as to seek misguided compassion, as he took this contradictory stand in his declaration under Section 313 Cr.P.C, to protect himself after the sequence of events that had already been proved against him.

The Court also relied on the case of Gurvail Singh & Anr. vs. State of Punjab, where it was held that to impose the death penalty, aggravating circumstances (crime test) must be completely met and no mitigating circumstance (criminal test) in favour of the accused should be present. If all the requirements are met as against the accused, then the Court will eventually implement the Rarest of Rare Cases Test, which relies on the interpretation of the public. 

In order to implement the test, the Court must examine a number of factors, such as the abhorrence of society, extreme indignation and antipathy towards certain types of crimes, such as the rape and murder of minor girls, and the death sentence awarded by the court because the circumstances demand that the will of the people being depicted in the judicial obligation.


Aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the case

In the present case, the aggravating circumstances were that the crime had been committed in an extremely barbaric, disgusting, diabolical, sickening manner and therefore the merciless manner in order to stir up severe and serious outrage from society. Exceptional depravity and extreme brutality was also seen in the acts of the accused. 

Before her death, extreme misery was imposed on the prosecutor and this event had a serious effect on the social order of the crime. In the present case, the mitigating circumstances were the issues which were raised by the counsel of the convicts. Accordingly, the aggravating situations outweigh mitigating factors.

The rarest of rare test

The evidence shows that even the prosecutrix ‘s entire intestine was perforated, splayed, and cut open because of frequent rod and hand insertions. The convicts pulled out their inner organs with their bare hands and also with the rods in the most savage way which caused serious injuries.  Severe psychological perversion is not worthy of human pardon.

As a convict tricked the victims into the bus in pursuit of their hoax, they brutally raped the prosecutrix, perpetrated barbaric violence and threw the defenceless victims in naked status out from the speeding bus, bleeding heavily in a cold winter night. Their unprovoked crime had proven itself and showed the exceptional depravity of their mind. 

The bite marks all over the victim’s body showed the beastly behaviour of the convicts. The intestines were so badly damaged, and the pain caused to the prosecutrix was unprecedented. The cruelty inflicted on her internal organs was extreme as it was clear from recorded medical evidence, and therefore the convict’s acts were called for severe punishment. These ghastly acts proved the case to be the Rarest of Rare Case.

The judgement of the trial court

Pursuant to Section 302 Indian Penal Code, the convicts were sentenced to death. The convicts were supposed to be hung by the neck until they were dead. The sentences had to run simultaneously as given in accordance with sections 120B, 365, 366, 376(2)(g), 377, 307, 201, 395, 397 and 412 of the IPC.

It had been advised that benefit should be provided wherever appropriate under Section 428 Cr.P.C. The court further recommended that appropriate compensation should be granted to the legal heir of the prosecutor pursuant to Section 357-A Cr.P.C. and therefore a copy of this order was sent to the Secretary, Delhi Legal Service Authority, New Delhi, for the determination of the amount of compensation to be granted pursuant to the system referred to in section 357-A Cr.P.C.

Pursuant to Article 115 of the Limitation Act, 1963, the convicts were notified that they might lodge an appeal against the judgment and order on sentence within 30 days. Attested copy of the judgment, order on sentence, copy of the charge, evidence, statement according to Section 313 Cr.P.C, displayed documents would be provided free of charge to the convicts.

The exhibits had been said to be retained by the Hon’ble High Court before the death penalty was confirmed. The reference to the death penalty had been sent to Hon’ble Delhi High Court for approval of the very same. The file had been compiled in compliance with Rule 34 of Chapter 24 part B Vol. III of Delhi High Court Rules and submitted to Hon’ble High Court in compliance with the Rules.

The approval of the high court

On 13th March 2014, Delhi HC gave its verdict in the case of State Through Reference vs Ram Singh & Ors. The death penalty imposed on the four convicts was upheld by Delhi High Court. A judge’s bench, Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani upheld the trial court judgement saying the crime they committed fell into the rarest of the rare category and upheld their conviction. The appeals by the convicts were dismissed.  

Section 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that, if the conviction relates to an offence punishable by death or alternatively to life imprisonment or imprisonment for a period of years, the judgment must specify the grounds on which the sentence was given in the event of the death penalty. 

While giving the judgement HC emphasized that the death penalty was given in the case of Bantu vs. State of U.P for the particular reason of the depraved and barbaric act of rape and murder of a 5-year-old girl, which included the inserting of a wooden stick in her vagina to the degree of 33 cms, to conceal the crime as an accident. The Supreme Court ruled that the case fell within the ambit of rarest of the rare cases. Thus by considering all the facts and circumstances of the case, HC ruled for the death penalty of all the four convicts.  

After filing appeals, SC stayed the execution of 2 convicts, Mukesh and Pawan. Later, stayed the conviction of the other two convicts. SC  directed the police to deliver the victim’s dying statement. SC says it’d hear the question of giving the convicts the death penalty once again. 

In the case of Mukesh and Another v. State (NCT of Delhi), SC upheld the death penalty for four convicts, stated that the case came under the classification of ‘the rarest of rarest’ and the crime committed was a shock to the humanity. Later the review pleas by the convicts were rejected by the Supreme Court. Victim’s parents requested the Delhi court to issue the death warrants.

Delhi govt. also asked for the death warrants to be issued against the four convicts for the execution of death sentence. Delhi court ordered Tihar authorities to send a notification to convicts to take advantage of their remaining legal remedies. Later, Delhi HC refused Pawan Kumar Gupta ‘s claim that he was a juvenile at the time of the crime. 

Delhi HC dismissed a complaint filed against sole eyewitness by Pawan ‘s father who was demanding to lodge an FIR. Delhi HC ordered saying that the four convicts need to be hanged at 7 am in Tihar jail on January 22, 2020.


The game of petitions

In judicial parlance, the word ‘review’ implies a judicial review of the case. Thus, a review clause under Section 114 of the 1908 Code of Civil Procedure was laid down in order to resolve a mistake and avoid the serious miscarriage of justice. The Indian Constitution authorizes the Supreme Court, pursuant to Article 137, to reconsider any judgment or decision it might have issued, but this is subjected to the provisions of any law and rules made pursuant to Article 145.

Rules of the Supreme Court, 1966, specify that this petition is necessary to be lodged within thirty days from the date of the court’s judgment, then the same has to be forwarded to the same bench that issued the verdict without oral arguments. The Supreme Court is the country’s apex court with the authority to reconsider its very own ruling alongside the High Court rulings. 

If any side of a specific case is aggrieved by the Court’s decision, it may file a petition for review after having followed the proper process prescribed by law. It must be remembered that perhaps the petition for review has a crucial role in cases where no appeal is desired or where no provision is made for appeal. 

The definition of the petition for appeal is an exception to the concept of ‘stare decisis’, as courts do not usually unsettle a judgment without even a solid argument. The Court has the discretionary power and authority over the petition filed but there are also specific legal grounds for appeal.

Curative Petition is the last constitutional remedy available to an individual whose request for review has been rejected by the Apex Court. This should be remembered that even though the Constitution speaks primarily about the Supreme Court ‘s review authority however when it gets to the curative petition it is unclear.

In the landmark case of Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr, the SC first established the idea of a curative petition. When a question was posed as to whether an aggrieved individual is eligible for any relief following the rejection of the review petition against the final verdict of the Apex Court or not.

In this case, in exercising its power or authority to avoid the misuse of its mechanism and to fix a serious gross injustice, the Court has reviewed its decision. In this case, the Supreme Court claimed that the Court’s curative power derives from Article 142 of the Constitution, which grants the Court the right to do justice in its entirety.

In addition, the Court noted that the rights set out in this article are of a strictly curative nature and therefore can not be viewed as authority that empowers the Court to neglect a litigant’s substantive rights when dealing with a case pending before him. This judicial authority can not, however, be used to override the basic law relevant to the case.

The Rupa Hurra case sets out the criteria to consider the petition as curative:

  • Except in cases where there are very compelling reasons, the Court shall not entertain a request for review of a Supreme Court order that has become final on the rejection of a review petition.
  • Although recognizing that it’s not possible to identify all the conditions for entertaining a curative petition, the Court set some specific guidelines for exercising that control.
  • The plaintiff needs to convince that there has been a clear breach of the concept of natural justice.
  • Specifically, the petition must specify that perhaps the reasons given were taken in the petition the same has been rejected through circulation.
  • A senior advocate is responsible for certifying the curative petition.
  • The curative petition is then distributed to the three highest-ranking judges and also to the judges who passed the judgment in question.
  • If most judges decide that perhaps the matter needs hearing, then it would be sent to the very same bench.
  • The court may impose exemplary charges on the petitioner if his petition lacks substance.
  • The definition of a curative petition has no limitation duration and Article 137 of the Indian Constitution has also assured it.

Mercy petition is a principle which is a convict’s final option. Under Article 72 of the Constitution, a prisoner has the right to send a petition for mercy to the President of India. It is basically the final help accessible to the convict under all the laws that exist. Likewise, state governors are eligible to offer pardon pursuant to Article 161 of the Constitution of India.

Article 72 & 161 of the Indian Constitution specifies that the President & Governor shall be authorized to reprieve, respite or remit the sentence imposed by the Apex and the High Courts, respectively. The authority to issue the pardon, however, is not at the discretion of the President & Governor, but it is done following consultation with the Council of Ministers. Article 72 has a much broader scope than Article 161.

Mukesh Singh had filed a curative petition before the Supreme Court. Followed by Vinay Kumar Singh, who had also filed a curative petition. Convict Mukesh Singh subsequently moved a plea for mercy before the President. Mukesh Singh and Vinay Sharma’s curative petitions were rejected by the Supreme Court. Mukesh Singh later approached Delhi High Court, wanting to set aside the death warrant issued by the trial court order and he also approached a Delhi court asking for delaying the execution because of a pending petition for mercy. Later, President Ram Nath Kovind refused Mukesh Singh ‘s plea for mercy. 

Delhi court released new death warrants scheduled at 6 am on 1 February 2020. Now, Pawan Gupta had filed an SLP i.e. Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court stating he was a juvenile at the time of the crime. The Supreme Court refused the SLP by Pawan Gupta. Not satisfied by all these rejections, Mukesh Singh moved to the Supreme Court challenging the plea for refusal of mercy. 

On the other hand, Akshay Kumar Singh filed a curative petition in SC. The Supreme Court refused the appeal of Mukesh Singh contesting the denial of the petition for mercy. Convict Akshay Kumar brought a curative appeal to the Supreme Court. Vinay Sharma also filed for a mercy petition before President Ram Nath Kovind. 

To escape all this, they again moved to Delhi HC asking a stay on the execution which was scheduled on 1st Feb 2020.  Akshay Kumar Singh’s curative plea was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Pawan Gupta filed a petition for review challenging his earlier order, which rejected his juvenile plea in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused Pawan Gupta ‘s appeal for consideration of his juvenile plea.

Delhi court again postponed death warrant’s enforcement until further notice. The President refused Vinay Sharma ‘s petition for mercy. Akshay Kumar Singh lodged a petition for mercy before the President. The Center moved to the High Court against the order of the trial court. The High Court refused the appeal of the Centre against the direction of the trial court saying that all four convicts must be hung together. 

It ordered that the convicts need to seek all legal options within a week, during which the law enforcement authorities have ordered to take action as per the law. The President refused the appeal for mercy of Akshay Kumar Singh. Tihar prison authorities approached the trial court to submit a new execution date. 

The Delhi court rejected the fresh execution date of the convicts. Vinay Sharma filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court questioning the denial of the appeal for mercy. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of Vinay Sharma contesting the denial of the petition for mercy. Delhi court released a death warrant of all four Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case convicts scheduled on March 3, 2020. 

Before going further, let us discuss the writ petition which was filed by convict Vinay Sharma. In the case of Vinay Sharma vs. Union of India & Ors, the petitioner Vinay had filed Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The petition had been filed questioning the President’s denial of his mercy petition and demanding commutation of his death penalty. The grounds for filing the petition were non-furnishing of relevant materials under the RTI Act, refusal to consider relevant material, torture, mental illness, consideration by the respondent authorities of irrelevant materials and illegal solitary confinement. 

The learned counsel of Petitioner Vinay argued that the petitioner was held in solitary confinement even though his petition for mercy was still pending before the President of India and that such unlawful imprisonment was unjust and in breach of the Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration and Others, and this becomes a basis for commuting the death penalty. Further, It was the argument of the learned counsel that the prisoners with psychiatric disability and mental disability can not be executed as alluded to in Shatrughan Chauhan and Anr v. Union of India & Ors in view of UN General Assembly resolutions.

In answer to all these contentions, Mr Tushar Mehta, the learned Solicitor General, contended that all the necessary materials had been put before the authorities concerned and the petition for mercy was submitted to the President of India along with all those documents including court case details, case records, medical records, social investigation reports. 

To the point that the petitioner’s suspected medical/mental condition was concerned, the Solicitor General stated that the petitioner was periodically examined and the Medical Officer-In-Charge, Central Jail Hospital, released a medical report that says that the petitioner had been mentally well adjusted and that his overall health was good and the petitioner’s medical report was also presented before the President. 

The affidavit provided by the Director-General (Prisons), Tihar Jail, it was argued that the petitioner wasn’t really put in solitary confinement and was kept in a single room with iron bars and the petitioner intermittently interacted with other prisoners too. In the case of  Epuru Sudhakar and Another v. Govt. of A.P. and Others, It was held that under Article 72 of the Constitution, the Court has pointed to the different grounds necessary for limited judicial review. 

It was held that there is judicial review of the President’s or Governor’s order under Article 72 or Article 161 and that their decisions can be questioned on the following basis that includes if the order has been passed without understanding or whether specific or entirely irrelevant factors have been passed, if the order is mala fide or suffers from arbitrariness or if the materials involved have not been taken into account. 

The court held that the petitioner can not bring a complaint that injustice is caused to them by the failure to supply the copy of the documents. It was held in Shatrughan Chauhan and Anr v. Union of India & Ors, that to commute the death penalty is not a favour or grace but a constitutional responsibility. 

As held in Maru Ram v. Union of India and Others by the Constitution Bench, and also referring to the case of Bikas Chatterjee vs Union of India, the Court shall bear in mind that when the power is conferred on a very high authority, it must be assumed that that authority would act carefully after an impartial analysis of all aspects of the issue. As the court did not find any ground for the exercise of judicial review of the order of the President of India rejecting the petitioner’s mercy petition and this writ petition was dismissed by the bench.

Nirbhaya convicts lodged a complaint before the Indian Election Commission because Vinay Sharma’s mercy petition was forwarded to the President at a time when the Model Code of Conduct was in force in Delhi. Pawan Gupta filed a curative appeal to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment before the Supreme Court. 

Akshay Singh moved a “full” plea for mercy, arguing that his previous petition, which the President rejected, was incomplete.  The Supreme Court rejected Pawan Gupta ‘s curative petition. Delhi court stayed the execution of the convicts. President Ram Nath Kovind refused Pawan Gupta ‘s plea for mercy. Delhi court released fresh death warrants at 5:30 am on 20 March. 

Family members of convicts wrote to the President, requesting the approval for euthanasia. Three of the four convicts requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a stay on execution. Mukesh Singh moved to Delhi High Court questioning court order for trial. The wife of Akshay Kumar Singh filed a petition for divorce in a Bihar court. 

Akshay Kumar Singh moved to challenge the Supreme Court to deny the appeal for mercy. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition of Akshay Kumar Singh contesting Delhi High Court order. Delhi Patiala House court declined to stay execution scheduled for March 20. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of Akshay Kumar Singh questioning the President’s rejection of a demand for mercy.

All four convicts submitted petitions to the Supreme Court with a view to reducing their sentencing to life in prison. Yet their appeals were dismissed by the top court, leaving the men without any further legal recourse. A last-minute appeal to commute the capital punishment was also dismissed hours before the executions.

Supreme Court refused the petition for investigation of Mukesh Singh saying he was not in Delhi at the time of the abduction and murder of the Nirbhaya gang. Earlier a lower court had dismissed his appeal. On Mar 20, 2020, all four death row convicts were executed in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case at 5.30 am in Tihar prison.


This case brought many legal and social reforms in the country. Both the centre and different states proposed several significant actions to guarantee women ‘s protection in the region. For example, the Karnataka government launched a 24/7 dedicated helpline to help women lodge any grievance against any form of sexual harassment. 

Fast-track courts were established to dispose of pending lawsuits and to provide the victims with urgent legal assistance. The description of rape was limited only to sexual intercourse. The 2013 Criminal Law (Amendment) Act gave the word rape a more general definition. It amended the interpretation provided for in IPC Section 375

Since the amendment, Section 375 of the IPC describes rape as any unwanted and coercive intrusion without the consent of the woman into the parts of the woman’s body, such as the vagina, urethra, mouth or anus. Justice Verma Committee was set up that had suggested many reforms.

The basic premise of natural justice is that everybody deserves the defence. The convicts can file an appeal against the decision and a court order within the time limit i.e within a period of 30 days as provided for in Article 115 of the 1963 Limitation Act. Beside all reforms, this case will also be remembered as the case where the accused have systematically manipulated the judicial process and tested the country’s tolerance. 

The convicts can not be hanged until the last person on the death row has exhausted his remedies, as per the SC judgment in the case of  Harbans Singh vs. State of UP & Ors. Hanging has to happen one by one. All who have exercised their legal options should be hanged. In the same situation, one convict deliberately causes the delay in filing the petition and makes others wait, a nice way to extend the date of hanging. This case exposed the loopholes which exist in our legal system.

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