How much more time for justice

Seven years since Nirbhaya was brutalized, isn’t this mockery in the face of law

January 22, 2020, the date fixed for the execution of convicts in the Nirbhaya case, has come and gone. So has February 1, the day when they were to hang at 6 am But the four found guilty of raping and brutally murdering the paramedic student continue to live, defeating the very purpose of a law which was specially formulated after the heinous crime. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 (Nirbhaya Act) was a legislation passed by parliament to ensure justice to the victims of sexual assault, harassment, stalking etc. That does not seem to be happening, however, as the convicts have been able to dodge the noose one more time.

On Wednesday, Pawan Gupta, one of the convicts, pleaded before Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana for more time to engage another lawyer as he did not have one. Gupta had removed his earlier lawyer hence sought legal aid from court. The Delhi court judge was displeased but agreed to offer help on immediate basis.

Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi, who has been relentless in her effort to get justice for her daughter, was distressed by the development and called it “delaying tactics” as she asked the court about her rights as the victim’s mother. She told the court that the Delhi High Court had given them one week’s time (on February 5) to seek legal remedies against the Supreme Court order rejecting the review petition filed by Akshay Kumar Singh, another convict in the case. But during the week none of the convicts— Mukesh Kumar, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Kumar Singh and Vinay Kumar Sharma—sought any legal option. Only when the day of their death drew near that Gupta decided to come up with the legal aid request.

The charge-sheet in the December 2012 case was filed on January 3, 2013 and two days later on January 5, 2013 the court took cognizance of the case which was heard by a fast track court. The case has thus been going on for seven years now. How much more time will the convicts be able to buy is difficult to say but with the sessions judge saying that “not giving them a lawyer will be injustice”, the hapless mother’s wait for justice is surely not ending any time soon. Pawan is also yet to file his mercy petition before the President. Akshay, who filed his plea on February 1, is awaiting verdict while mercy pleas of the other two have been rejected.

Legal wrangling sometimes makes a mockery of the criminal justice system as the delay in dispensation of justice as in the Nirbhaya case. On the other hand, Telangana police won praise for quickly eliminating the four accused of raping and murdering a young veterinarian in December last year. Wrong may be, but better than long drawn trial.