December 16 gang-rape: SC seeks affidavits of four death row convicts

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the four death row convicts in the December 16 gang-rape and murder case to file affidavits on the mitigating circumstances for its consideration.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan asked the counsel for the condemned convicts, who have challenged their conviction and the death penalty in the sensational case, to file the affidavits, detailing the mitigating and other circumstances which favour them.

The oral direction came in the wake of submission of senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the bench as an amicus curiae, that the trial court and the high court were “so overwhelmed by the nature of the crime” that they did not follow the proper procedure for sentencing the accused in the instant case.

Ramachandran had submitted that the courts below did not consider the mitigating circumstances of individual accused in the case.

“The accused and their counsel were not asked questions about their individual backgrounds and the mitigating factors, there was no application of mind to the case of each accused and therefore, no separate reasons were given for the imposition of death penalty on each of the accused,” he had said, adding this had resulted in denial of right to equality and protection of life and liberty under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India respectively.

Earlier, the court, which has been hearing final arguments in the case from April 4 last year, had appointed senior lawyers Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde as amicus curiaes.

While Ramachandran would assist the court in appeals of convicts, Mukesh and Pawan, Hegde would assist in appeals of other two convicts, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh.

These four convicts had approached the apex court against the Delhi High Court’s March 13, 2014, verdict which had observed that their offence fell in the rarest of rare category and had upheld the death sentence awarded to them by the trial court.

A 23-year-old paramedic was brutally assaulted and gang-raped by six persons in a moving bus in south Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend on the night of December 16, 2012. She had died in a Singapore hospital on December 29.

The prime accused, Ram Singh, was found dead in a cell in Tihar Jail in March 2013 and proceedings against him were abated.