By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-03-20 13:05:16
Finally, justice has been done. The Nirbhaya rapists were hanged at 5.30 am today in Tihar jail after they exhausted all legal remedies available to them. It took more than seven years for the final closure of the case and it raised several questions about the laws, the legal process and the way in which defense lawyers tried to pick loopholes in the system. If one believes that the certainty of justice is more a deterrent than the severity of punishment, the Nirbhaya case provided proof that the law needs to be revamped so that criminals and their lawyers do not delay the process interminably. The whole country watched in disbelief as several death warrants came to naught due to the mechanisms of the defense lawyers who tried every trick in the book to delay the inevitable.
The first rule that needs revision is the one in the jail manual in Delhi that provides that if more than one person is awarded the death penalty in a single case, all of them are to be hanged together. It was this rule that allowed lawyers to file individual petitions for each of the remedies available to the death row convicts separately and delay the process for more than five months. Either the jail rule should be revised to provide for individual hangings when every remedy is exhausted for each individual convict or the relevant law should be changed to provide that if more than one person is awarded the death penalty in a single case, they have to jointly use all remedies available to them. As the latter will be difficult to implement, the jail rule should be revised forthwith.
Then, there are many layers of petitions and objections and curative petitions that the death row convicts can avail of. Some of these appear frivolous and are just used to delay the process. The whole process needs a thorough reexamination by legal experts and the Law Commission. There should be a predefined guideline with timelines that death row convicts can avail of as legal remedy once the Supreme Court confirms their sentences. No deviation should be allowed from that guideline under any circumstance. That would ensure that everything is transparent and defense lawyers cannot discover newer loopholes just to delay things and make a mockery of the legal process.