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Nirbhaya case: SC appoints senior advocate Anjana Prakash to represent death row convict


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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thursday appointed senior advocate Anjana Prakash to represent one of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case who was unrepresented after dropping his earlier lawyer.

A bench of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna appointed Prakash as amicus curiae to represent the convict, Pawan Kumar Gupta.

"On behalf of respondent Pawan Gupta, we requested Anjana Prakash, senior counsel, to be amicus curiae to assist the court in the case of Pawan Gupta.

Anjana Prakash has graciously agreed to appear and advance arguments to assist the court in the matter of Pawan Gupta," the bench said in its order.

The top court deferred the hearing for Friday on the Centre's plea seeking separate execution of four convicts and asked all the condemned prisoners to file their replies by then.

Prakash had earlier appeared for convict Mukesh Kumar Singh, who had challenged the rejection of his mercy plea by the President.

The top court had dismissed his plea.

The bench took note of the order of trial court passed on Wednesday in which it had asked the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to provide Pawan's father with a list of empanelled advocates to choose from to represent the convict.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for convict Mukesh, said that trial court listed the matter for hearing a plea of jail authorities seeking fresh date of execution and it would be appropriate if the matter in top court is taken up on Friday.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre and Delhi government, said there is no change in the status of the convicts since the last date of hearing on Tuesday as no one has moved any mercy or curative petition till now as directed by Delhi High Court.

The bench said that it is listing the matter for Friday at 2 PM for final hearing and all the convicts in the case shall file their replies to Centre's plea by then.

Gupta is the only convict in the case who has not filed a curative petition — the last legal remedy available to a person. He also has the option of filing a mercy plea against the death sentence.

On Tuesday, convict Vinay Sharma had challenged the rejection of his mercy petition by the President in the apex court.

The same day, the top court had sought a response from the four convicts on Centre's appeal against a Delhi High Court verdict refusing to set aside the stay on their execution.

The top court had granted liberty to authorities to obtain a fresh date for execution of the death warrants from the trial court, saying pendency of Centre's and Delhi government's appeals before it "will not be an impediment".

The trial court has stayed "till further orders" the execution of the convicts — Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Gupta (25), Sharma (26) and Akshay (31).

Two death warrants have stayed so far in the case.

Mehta had earlier told the apex court that authorities were "struggling to execute them" despite the appeals of the convicts being dismissed by the top court in 2017.

He had said that the court has to keep in mind the impact of this situation on the society.

On December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who later came to be known as 'Nirbhaya' (fearless), was gang-raped and savagely assaulted in a moving bus in South Delhi.

She died after a fortnight.

Six people, including the four convicts and a juvenile, were named as accused. Ram Singh, the sixth person, allegedly committed suicide in Tihar jail days after the trial began.

The juvenile was released in 2015 after spending three years in a correctional home.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)