A Delhi court on Thursday, for the fourth time, issued a fresh death warrant against the four convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya rape and murder case, who will now be executed at 5.30 am on March 20.

This is expected to be last time a death warrant would be issued against the convicts as the four men have exhausted all the legal remedies available to them.

President Ram Nath Kovind had on Wednesday rejected the mercy petition of Pawan Kumar Gupta, one of the four convicts Nirbhaya case.

Gupta had filed a mercy plea before the President on March 2 after the Supreme Court dismissed the curative plea filed by him last week. In his plea, he had urged the court to convert his death sentence to life imprisonment on the basis of his juvenility at the time of the crime.

Meanwhile, the President has already dismissed the mercy plea of three other convicts – Mukesh Kumar Singh, Vinay Kumar Sharma and Akshay Thakur.

Delhi’s Patiala House Court had on February 17 issued a fresh death warrant against the four convicts ordering their execution on March 3. However, the trial court on March 2, pronounced that the four convicts will not be hanged on the scheduled day as Pawan’s mercy plea was pending before the President.

However, the court had come down heavily on the convicts’ lawyer AP Singh as it slammed the latter for acting late in filing curative and mercy pleas and told him sternly that he is “playing with fire” and “should be cautious”. It also added, “One wrong move by anybody and you know the consequences.”

AP Singh, representing the convicts, had been delaying the execution stating Rule 836 of the Delhi Prison Rule, 2018, which unequivocally mandates that “as long as any appeal or application of the convict is pending before the apex court, the deaths sentence cannot be executed.”

The four convicts in the gangrape case — which triggered massive nationwide outrage in 2012 – have been exploring every legal option one by one to stretch the date of their hanging as much as they can.

The Patiala House Court had on January 31 deferred the hanging of four convicts in Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case — scheduled for February 1 — till further orders.

Earlier, according to a January 7 order, the convicts were to be hanged at 7 am on January 22.

The 23-year-old woman, who came to be known as Nirbhaya, was gang-raped and assaulted on December 16, 2012, in a moving bus which 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, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail days after the trial began in the case.