New Delhi: The Delhi government apprised the Delhi High court on Wednesday that execution of the death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case cannot take place on 22 January as a mercy plea has been filed by one of them.

On 7 January the death warrants of the four convicts -- Vinay Sharma (26), Mukesh Singh (32), Akshay Kumar Singh (31) and Pawan Gupta (25) were issued. The four convicts were to be hanged on 22 January 22 at 7 am in Tihar jail. Mukesh challegend the death warrant issued by the trial court since the mercy petition was pending.

The counsels for the Delhi government submitted before the High court bench comprising of Justices Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal that one of the convicts has filed mercy plea. The prison authorities further explained that under the prison rules execution of death warrant is not allowed till the mercy plea is decided. The Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra also said that none of the four convicts can be executed on 22 January unless the present mercy plea is decided.

"Your house is in disarray. The problem is people will lose confidence in the system. Things are not moving in the right direction. The system is capable of being exploited and we see a stratagem to exploit the system, which is oblivious about it," the court responded.

Mehra also submitted before the court that since Mukesh has moved a mercy plea, the rules entail that the court needs to wait for other co-convicts to exhaust their mercy pleas as well.

The HC judge said: "Then your rule is bad if you cannot take action till all the co-convicts have moved mercy plea. There has been no application of mind. The system is suffering from cancer." Defending the prison authorities, Mehra replied that that the convicts are responsible for "frustrating" the legal process and system as they were filing curative and mercy pleas in stages to further delay their execution. If mercy plea is rejected before or after January 22, then also a fresh death warrant has to be sought from trial court in respect of all the convicts, he said.

The court rejected Mukhesh's plea challenging the warrant and asked him to approach the session court.

"These are delaying tactics and I really condemn it. They should be hanged on the date given by the court, which is January 22. Why has the Delhi government suddenly woken up in the matter," the National Commission for Women (NCW) chief said.

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