Nirbhaya's parents along with Advocate Jitendra Kumar Jha leave the Supreme Court, in New Delhi, on March 5, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Former India Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph on Wednesday questioned whether heinous crimes will stop happening after the convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case are hanged.

“By hanging these people (Nirbhaya convicts), will such type of crimes stop? In Bachan Singh case, Supreme Court had said that the death penalty can be handed over in rarest of the rare cases, and that too, only when all other options are unquestionably foreclosed,” retired Justice Joseph told ANI here.

He said that if people who commit such crimes are sent to jail forever, society can be told that if anyone indulges in such sort of crimes, they will be behind bars forever whereas people forget about the crime after the execution.

“I don’t think that by hanging the four convicts the parents of Nirbhaya will get justice. I have all sympathies definitely for the parents of the victim. I really feel sorry,” retired Justice Joseph said.

“Gandhiji had said that an eye for eye will only make the world blind. So in criminal justice procedure, there is nothing called vengeance. If I take your life that means you will take mine. This is not justice. Vengeance and retribution are two different concepts altogether,” he added.

Retired Justice Joseph said the purpose of punishment is retribution, restitution and reformation.

“According to me even if the court has left out considering any of these aspects at the time of the considering the mercy petition, the President and the government also have a duty to take into account some of these aspects,” he said.

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Justice does not mean life for a life, he said adding that the absence of freedom is the worst that a person can have.

This comes as the four convicts in the 2012 case -- Mukesh Singh, Akshay Singh Thakur, Pawan Gupta, and Vinay Sharma -- are scheduled to be hanged at 5:30 am on March 20.

The case pertains to the brutal gang-rape and killing of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus on the night of December 16, 2012, by six people including a juvenile in the national capital. The woman died at a Singapore hospital a few days later.

Hanging scheduled for March 20

As the hanging of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case is scheduled for the morning of March 20, Tihar Jail officials on Wednesday said that most of the arrangements for their executions have already been done.

“We had already inspected the gallows in December. The inspection was done by an executive engineer of PWD along with Tihar officials. It will be inspected again, on the evening before the execution,” an official said.

He said that the ropes to be used for the execution were also tested during the inspection.

“A dummy sandbag weighing 1.5 times the weight of the convict was hanged to test the rope. Spare ropes are also kept just in case. A medical officer will report about the drop on the basis of which, the length of the drop will be decided,” the officer said.

“After testing of the rope, other equipment will be securely locked and sealed in a steel box and will be kept under the supervision of the deputy superintendent,” he added.

The official said that the superintendent, deputy superintendent, medical officer-in-charge, resident medical officer, district magistrate, ten constables or warders, and two head constables or head warders will be present during execution.

Death row convict files for divorce

In a yet another twist in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, the wife of Akshay Singh Thakur, a death row convict in the case, has filed a divorce petition in a family court in Aurangabad district of Bihar.

This comes as Thakur, along with three other convicts - Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, and Vinay Sharma - is scheduled to be hanged on March 20.

In her petition, filed through advocate Mukesh Kumar Singh, the convict’s wife - Punita Devi - has said that she doesn’t want to live the rest of her life as a widow and therefore wants a divorce.

The petition, filed on March 12, is scheduled to be heard on March 19 by the court.

The two got married on May 29, 2010 in Palom district of Jharkhand and have a 9-year-old son.

Meanwhile, several other petitions in the matter are also pending before Delhi court, Delhi High Court, Supreme Court and Election Commission of India.