A special court here deferred till Friday the sentencing of four men convicted of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus as the prosecution demanded they be hanged and the defence quoted the teachings of Gandhi in a last desperate bid to save them.
Lawyers for Mukesh Singh (26), Vinay Sharma (20), Pawan Gupta (19) and Akshay Thakur (28) said they were young, didn’t have previous criminal records and should be given a chance to reform.
Quoting the Mahatma, AP Singh, counsel for Vinay and Akshay, said, “God has given life and he alone can take life, not man-made courts.”
Arguing that “execution kills only the criminal and not the crime, and the death sentence can’t be a deterrent”, he said “Beant Singh, who assassinated Indira Gandhi, was hanged but her son, Rajiv Gandhi, was killed in a similar fashion”.
But special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan said the “grotesque and diabolic” crime demanded the noose. “There is no chance such criminals can be reformed. If death is not given to such criminals, the common man will lose faith in the courts. Society feels no woman is safe. It is for the courts to change that perception by handing down harsh punishment.”
As arguments played out for four hours in the packed courtroom, the woman’s parents sat in rapt attention while the four convicts stood emotionless.
Earlier, on the drive from Tihar to court, the men had been “totally relaxed” and even sung Bollywood songs, the police said. “Mukesh sat in front, the rest behind and they were humming songs,” an official told the Guardian.
As their bus passed the gates of the Saket district court, one of the four shouted, “I am innocent! I am innocent.” Outside, hordes of protesters stood with placards reading “Hang the rapists”.
On Tuesday, the seven-month trial came to an end with the court finding the four men guilty on 12 counts, including gang rape, murder and unnatural offences. On August 31, their minor accomplice was convicted and sentenced to three years in a correctional facility. The sixth accused, Ram Singh, was found dead in his jail cell in March.