The hoodlum described by the prosecution as the most brutal of the six accused in the December 16 outrage on a moving Delhi bus was found guilty of gang-rape and murder on Saturday, and will walk free in just over two years' time.
He was six months short of his 18th birthday, and so a juvenile insulated from more severe punishment, when he took part in the frenzied violation of a 23-year-old paramedical student that led to her death two weeks later.
The Juvenile Justice Board, which ruled in the case, sent him to confinement for three years at a reformatory home, the maximum punishment under the law governing minors. The eight months he has already spent in custody will be deducted from the sentence.
One of the five others accused in the case, Ram Singh, was found hanging in his Tihar cell in March. The trial of the other four -- Mukesh Kumar, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta -- is drawing to a close at a fast-track court. If convicted they face death by hanging.
“We will get justice only if all the killers get the death sentence," the victim's mother told reporters between sobs outside the juvenile court. "This punishment is just like an acquittal...just like the four other accused are expected to get the death sentence, the juvenile also should be hanged.”
The parents said they would move the Delhi high court challenging the documents on the basis of which he was declared a juvenile and seek his fresh trial as an adult.
The prosecution said it was the juvenile who lured the victim and her male friend into the bus that fateful night. He beat the man up, raped the woman twice and then violated her with an iron rod, causing her intestines to be pulled out.
The gang rape led to public fury on Delhi's streets, with police forced to lock down the heart of the city to head off sometimes violent protests. It finally prompted the government to enact a tough law to deal with crimes against women, and led to increased policing and the fast-tracking of rape cases across the country. Juvenile's 'light' punishment sparks protests
The victim -- who had shown an amazing will to survive in the days the assault -- was airlifted to a hospital in Singapore, but her injuries left her with no real chance of survival and she died on December 29.
The verdict was read out behind closed doors, with only the accused, his lawyer, the parents of the victim, her brother and the prosecutor allowed in the court room. Later, the brother of the victim tried to slap the juvenile but was restrained by those around him.
The case sparked demands to lower the age of juvenility to 16 from 18, a move opposed by several rights groups. Amod Kanth, founder member of child rights NGO 'Prayas' said, "Rehabilitation and reform is the aim of the Juvenile Justice Act. Such a knee-jerk reaction based on one single incident will have dangerous consequence on lakhs of other juveniles." Proposed juvenile law to have tougher punishments
The Supreme Court has admitted a petition filed by Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy which said that “mental and intellectual maturity” of minor offenders must be considered while fixing their culpability and the rule that any accused aged less than 18 years should get the benefit of the Juvenile Act be removed.
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(With inputs from Agencies)