New Delhi, Jan 28, 2020: Nirbhaya case convict Mukesh Singh was sexually abused in Tihar Jail, his lawyer Anjana Prakash told the Supreme Court on Tuesday during a hearing seeking judicial review of the rejection of his mercy petition by the President.
"Courts only sentenced me to death. Was I sentenced to be raped?" the senior lawyer asked the court on his behalf and claimed that several supervening circumstances, including his illegal solitary confinement, were ignored when the mercy petition was rejected.
The lawyer also claimed that Mukesh Singh’s co-convict in the 2012 gang-rape and murder case, Ram Singh, was murdered in jail but the case was closed as suicide. Ram Singh had been found hanging in his cell in March 2013.
"I haven’t been able to sleep in 5 years. When I manage to sleep, I dream of death and beating," the lawyer said on Mukesh Singh’s behalf, submitting to the three-judge bench led by Justice R Banumathi that he has been kept in solitary confinement against the norms. Rules state that a death row inmate will be shifted to solitary confinement after his or hers mercy petition gets rejected.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, told the court that allegations that the convict was sexually abused and ill-treated in jail cannot be ground for mercy.
"Even if I assume that there was ill treatment, it is not a ground for such relief. It is not a luxury jurisdiction that though I’m guilty of this heinous crime, since I was ill treated, I should be given mercy", the S-G said.
To the Supreme Court’s question as to how he can allege "non-application of mind" by the President in rejecting his mercy petition, the lawyer said all the facts in the case were not placed before the President when he dealt with the mercy plea.
"How can you say that these facts were not placed before his excellency the President? How can you say that there was non-application of mind by the President," the bench, also comprising justices Ashok Bhsuhan and A S Bopanna, asked the lawyer.
The convict’s counsel said that an RTI reply showed that the trial court’s order in the rape-murder case was not presented to the President and nor was the recommendation of the jail superintendent.
When the convict’s counsel said that all facts were not placed before the President, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that all the records, exhibits and the judgment in the case were placed before the President.
Prakash referred to judgements on death sentence and the power of the president to grant mercy. He also told the court that the President’s rejection of the mercy plea was on extraneous consideration as also mala fide, arbitrary and without materials.
The bench is hearing Singh’s plea against the dismissal of his mercy petition by President Ram Nath Kovind on January 17. He has sought an urgent hearing on his plea against the dismissal of the mercy plea.
The trial court has issued black warrants for the execution of all the four convicts - Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Kumar Sharma and Akshay Kumar - at 6 am on February 1.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known as "Nirbhaya" (the fearless), was gang-raped and savagely assaulted on the night of December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital.