Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of delaying the execution of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case.

He claimed that the hanging of convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case has been delayed because of Delhi government’s “negligence” in the matter.

“The hanging of the convicts in 2012 Delhi gangrape case is now delayed because of Delhi government’s negligence. AAP is responsible for the delay in justice. Why did the Delhi government not give notice to the convicts for filing mercy plea in the last 2.5 years?” Javadekar said at a press conference.

“Now the hanging cannot happens on January 22. If they had been given a notice as per the rule soon after the death sentence was announced in 2017, the accused would have been hanged by now. AAP government is responsible for the delay in justice,” the Union Minister was further quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

The Delhi government following reports from Tihar jail authorities had told the High Court on Wednesday that the execution of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case cannot take place on January 22 as a mercy plea has been filed by one of them.

The four convicts — Vinay Sharma (26), Mukesh Kumar (32), Akshay Thakur Singh (31) and Pawan Gupta (25) — are to be hanged at 7 am on January 22.

The government’s statement came as Mukesh, one of the four convicts in the case, on Tuesday moved the Delhi High Court challenging the death warrant issued against him.

The Delhi government and the prison authorities informed the court that under the rules, it will have to wait for the mercy plea to be decided before executing the death warrant.

They also said that none of the four convicts can be executed on January 22 unless the present mercy plea is decided.

However, the Delhi High Court refused to set aside the death warrant issued against convict Mukesh.

A division bench of the court presided by Justices Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal asked convict Mukesh’s counsel to approach the trial court and apprise the court about the new developments that have taken place recently after the January 7 order.

“Apprise the trial court about the mercy plea pending,” the bench said adding that “there is nothing wrong with the trial court’s execution order”.

Meanwhile, The Delhi government has recommended the Centre to reject the mercy petition of Mukesh.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Wednesday said that the government had recommended rejection of the mercy petition of the Nirbhaya convict in its communication with the Lt. Governor Anil Baijal.

The Delhi government’s recommendation to the Home Ministry came less than 24 hours after Mukesh Singh appealed to Rashtrapati Bhavan to spare him from the gallows.

Sisodia had said that the government had worked at “lightning speed” to make sure there was no delay by the city government.

The deputy chief minister’s assertion came as the Tihar prison authorities informed that the execution of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case cannot take place on January 22.

Delhi’s Patiala House Court had on January 7 issued death warrants against all the four convicts in the 2012 case.

Four of the convicts were sentenced to death by a trial court in September 2013, and the verdict was confirmed by the Delhi High Court in March 2014 and upheld by the Supreme Court in May 2017, which also dismissed their review petitions.

The 23-year-old victim, who came to be known as Nirbhaya, was brutally gangraped and tortured on December 16, 2012, inside a running bus in south Delhi by six persons, which later led to her death. All the six accused were arrested and charged with sexual assault and murder. One of the accused was a minor and appeared before a juvenile justice court, while another accused committed suicide in Tihar Jail.