The execution of the four Nirbhaya case convicts will "surely not take place" on January 22 as a mercy plea has been filed by one of them, the Delhi government told the high court on Wednesday.
Vinay Sharma, Mukesh Kumar, Akshay Kumar Singh and Pawan Gupta are to be hanged next Wednesday at 7 am in Tihar jail, a Delhi court said last week, signing their death warrant seven years after a young medical student was gang-raped on a moving bus, tortured and killed in December 2012.
Mukesh Singh filed a mercy petition yesterday. Even after it is rejected, a convict has to be given 14 days' notice before execution.
Justices Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal were told by the Delhi government and the centre that Mukesh Singh had said in his petition that his death warrant was premature.
Under the rules, said Tihar jail, it would have to wait for the mercy plea to be decided by the President before executing the death warrant. Lawyer Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said: "The fate of a death convict comes to finality only after his mercy plea is rejected by the President."
None of the four convicts can be executed on January 22 unless the mercy plea is decided, the court was told.
Mr Mehra told the court that the pattern followed by the convicts to file their mercy pleas separately was a strategy to "frustrate the process of law".
The Supreme Court had on Tuesday dismissed the curative pleas of Mukesh and Vinay, closing their last legal option.
Nirbhaya's mother requested President Ram Nath Kovind to summarily reject the mercy petition of Mukesh Singh. "They will be hanged on the decided date, no matter which court they approach," she told reporters.