The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the death warrant issued by a Gujarat court in the execution of a 22-year-old man convicted in the rape and murder of a three-year-old child in Surat in October 2018.

The warrant, issued by additional sessions judge PS Kala, had fixed February 29 as the date for hanging Anil Yadav, the convict.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant stayed the death warrant, as it was issued before the limitation period earmarked for filing a Special Leave Petition against the High Court order could be lapsed. The apex court also issued a notice on the matter.

The top court queried the state counsel as to how could an order of this kind be passed despite a reported order of the Supreme Court on a similar issue in the Amroha murder case.

Government pleader Nayan Sukhadwala argued that Yadav has not yet approached the Supreme Court against the high court’s order confirming his death sentence.

According to the law, a challenge against a death sentence could be filed within 60 days. However, in this case, the death warrant was issued merely 33 days after the High Court’s order.

The top court directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Gujarat, to take instructions in the matter, and stayed the death warrant.

A Surat court had sentenced Yadav to death under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which was upheld by the Gujarat High Court on December 27, 2019.

A three-year-old girl went missing from her house in Godadara area of Surat city on October 14, 2018.

The police found her body a day later in a locked room on the ground floor of the building where she lived. Yadav, who lived in the room, was missing.

A migrant labourer from Bihar, Anil Yadav, knew the victim and her family.

He was arrested from his village in Buxar district of Bihar five days after the body was discovered.