Less than a week after the Delhi High Court upheld the death penalties for all four of the convicts in Delhi gang-rape, the Supreme Court has ordered a stay on death penalty of two of the four convicts.
Defence lawyer of two of the convicts, Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, had filed a special leave petition in the country's top court which was admitted and heard by a bench of judges on Saturday.
"We feared that they could be executed any minute and therefore we filed an SLP (special leave petition, special power bestowed upon the Supreme Court of India to hear a case) and by the grace of God, it was accepted. The Bench of judges sat down today around 5.30 and in their order they said clearly that the hanging of these two convicts, Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, has been stayed till 31st March," said the lawyer, ML Sharma.
Explaining the grounds on which the death penalty of the two was stayed by the court, Sharma said there were numerous medical inconsistencies which raised questions on the theory put forth by the police in their chargesheet. He added that he has no clue as to the fate of the other two convicts.
"Since there is no order in their favour (remaining two convicts), there are many possibilities, one of them being that they might be hanged. My two clients, Mukesh and Pawan are completely safe. But I can't say anything about the other two. Maybe, their execution warrants have been signed already," said Sharma.
He alleged both the prosecution as well as the Delhi High court did not deliberate on the medical discrepancies while upholding the death sentence of the convicts.
Gym instructor Vinay Sharma, bus cleaner Akshay Kumar Singh, fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, and unemployed Mukesh Singh were sentenced to death for their part in the gang rape and killing of the 23-year-old woman in December 2012.
During the trial, a fifth defendant hanged himself in his cell. A sixth, who was under 18 at the time of the attack, was sentenced to three years' detention, the maximum allowed under the country's juvenile law.
Meanwhile, the mother of one of the convicts who was present during the hearing said that a lie cannot take away the life of her son.
"It is definitely true (the convicts have been trapped by the police in a false story). Truth cannot stay hidden for long," she added.
On Thursday, four men convicted of raping and murdering a woman in New Delhi had their death sentences upheld for a crime that caused a huge public backlash against an entrenched culture of violence against women in India.
The victim, a trainee physiotherapist who was raped for an hour and tortured with an iron rod on a moving bus, became a symbol of the dangers women face in a country where a rape is reported on average every 21 minutes.
The woman died in a Singapore hospital two weeks after the attack.
In September last year, a trial court judge had ordered death penalty for all the four convicts.