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Nirbhaya case: SC rejects Akshay's death penalty review

New Delhi

18-December-2019

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder convict Akshay Kumar Singh's age, socio-economic background, unblemished antecedents and chances to reform fade into insignificance as the offence committed by him falls under "rarest of rare" cases, and therefore the death penalty is confirmed.

Singh had moved the apex court seeking a review on the capital punishment handed down to him and other three accused in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case. The top court upheld the death penalty in 2017 and dismissed the review by other accused in 2018.

A bench, headed by Justice R. Banumathi and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and A.S. Bopanna, said: "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."

The top court noted Singh's review petition was a mirror image of petitions of the other convicts. "The grounds raised in the present review petition are almost a repetition of the arguments raised in the earlier review petitions which were rejected and in our view, cannot be raised repeatedly," it said.

The court told Singh's lawyer that review petition is not for re-hearing of the appeal on re-appreciation of the evidence over and over again, and a party is not entitled to seek review of the judgment merely for the purpose of rehearing of the appeal and a fresh decision.

It observed that it did not find any error apparent on the face of the record in the appreciation of evidence or the findings of the judgment of May 5, 2017. Therefore, none of the grounds raised in the review petition call for review of this judgment and thus, the review petition is dismissed, it said.

As Singh's lawyer A.P. Singh argued that the death penalty has been abolished in many countries, the court observed that "... the same contentions were raised by A.P. Singh in the earlier review petitions and the same were dismissed".

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted that the evidence adduced by the prosecution and the defence plea has been considered threadbare both by the trial court, the Delhi High Court and also by the Supreme Court. "And, the High Court and the Supreme Court upheld the findings as to the guilt of the accused and also the sentence."

Singh's lawyer contended before the court that his client wants to file a mercy petition before the President, and sought three weeks time. Mehta contested this, stating the prescribed time limit is only one week.

However, the top court refused to pass an order on the time limit to file mercy petition before the President. "We are not expressing view in this regards, and the accused can avail the relief for mercy petition as per the stipulated time limit available in law," it said. IANS