The real tribute to Nirbhaya would be speedy delivery of justice. The documentary, which recorded the statements of death row convict Mukesh Singh, created an outrage that reached even Parliament.
However, airing the documentary has been banned, but from here onwards the real battle will begin. A conviction is not sufficient and for the prosecution to deliver real justice it will have to fight hard to get the death sentence upheld in the Supreme Court.
A delay would be un-pardonable:
Mukesh Singh was sentenced to death by the trial court and the same was upheld by the Delhi High Court. He and the rest of the accused moved the Supreme Court which stayed the death sentence.
The Supreme Court had issued the stay in the month of July 2014 and the matter is still being heard. While the counsel for the accused would attempt to prolong the case, it is up to the prosecution to speed up the matter before the Supreme Court.
The government and the Home Ministry in particular and also the President of India will play a key role in speeding up the matter if the Supreme Court upholds the death sentence.
If the Supreme Court upholds the death sentence, then the accused will file a review petition and in case that fails he will move a mercy petition before the President of India.
A mercy petition and the role of the Home Ministry:
The Home Ministry would have a major role to play if the accused prefers a mercy petition before the President of India.
It is for the Home Ministry to give its recommendations to the President on whether mercy shall be granted or not.
Once the opinion is given, then the final decision would lie with the President. The President would then have to take an early call on the matter.
What delays can do?
The Supreme Court has come down very heavily on delaying matters relating to death sentences. If deciding a mercy petition is delayed then the convict stands to get the benefit and seek for reduction of his sentence.
We witnessed a recent Supreme Court judgment in which the death sentences of 15 death row convicts was commuted to life sentence.
The Supreme Court had held that death sentence can be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of delay on the part of the government in deciding the mercy plea.
What the legal experts say:
Several legal experts say that a delay is fatal to any case. Keeping any prisoner in jail without handing out a verdict is violation and he or she can seek a commutation of sentence.
The Supreme Court has said on many occasions that life sentence is a rule and death is an exception.
There is growing pressure from the international community to do away with the system of death system and ensure that the punishments are more reformative in nature. India has however made it clear that it shall not do away with the death penalty.
Moreover, the courts are extremely careful while handing out a death penalty and would take into account whether the case falls under the bracket of the rarest of rare cases or is the accused beyond reformation.
In such circumstances the prosecution and also the government mechanism needs to act swiftly on cases relating to death sentences and not give the accused the benefit of a technicality.