NEW DELHI: Three days ahead of the scheduled hanging of a death row convict — for gang raping a minor girl and killing her along with her brother in Coimbatore in 2010 — the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed his execution till October 16. A bench, headed by justice RF Nariman, agreed to hear the plea filed by convict Manoharan, seeking a review of the apex court order confirming his death penalty, on October 16.During the open court hearing on the review petition, the bench, also comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and Surya Kant, said it was granting a last opportunity to the counsel representing the convict to argue the case since it was a matter of death sentence.
The counsel told the bench that a death warrant had been issued and he was scheduled to be executed on September 20. “List the matter on October 16, 2019, at 3 pm, as a last opportunity for oral arguments in terms of our judgment. Meanwhile, there shall be stay of execution of the death sentence,” the bench said in its order. The top court had on August 1 sent Manoharan to gallows for “horribly” gang-raping a 10-year-old girl along with a co-accused and killing her and her seven-year-old brother by throwing them in a canal with their hands tied. Earlier, a three-judge bench of the SC upheld the lower courts’ verdicts in the case.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the counsel representing the convict told the bench that throughout the trial in the case, Manoharan was lodged in jail and seven advocates were changed in the matter due to which the convict was not duly represented from trial court to the top court. “During the trial, he (convict) must have been produced before the court and interacted with his lawyers,” the bench observed. The lawyer said however that the convict was not given legal aid when a magistrate had recorded his confessional statement. “Seven lawyers were changed in the matter. There was a resolution of the bar that no lawyer will appear for him in the case,” the counsel said, adding that she would also inspect the records of the case. She said senior lawyer Siddharth Luthra, who would argue the case, could not come to the court on Tuesday and the matter should be listed for hearing in second week of October. “We will take review petition up for once as it is a death sentence matter,” the bench said.
Manoharan and co-accused Mohanakrishnan, who was later shot dead in an encounter, had picked up the 10-year-old girl and her seven-year-old brother from outside a temple on October 29, 2010 when they were going to school. They had tied the hands of both minor siblings and brutally gang raped the girl before trying to kill them by poisoning. As they did not die of poisoning, the accused tied their hands and threw them to Parambikulam-Aliyar Project canal.
In its August 1 verdict, Justices Nariman, Khanna and Surya Kant were on the same page in upholding the conviction of Manoharan. However, Justice Khanna was of the view that instead of death penalty, the jail term for the remainder of life without any benefit of remission would meet the ends of justice.