The distance between them and the gallows may be shortening, but their new-found faith in a protracted legal procedure has visibly empowered their will.
Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakur — the four men accused of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman on December 16, 2013 — are calm, composed and exhibiting a steely resolve as they count down the hours before a Delhi court declares their quantum of punishment on Friday.
"They seemed calm on the surface but certainly are worried," said an official from west Delhi's Tihar Jail. "All of them flipped through television channels the entire day for any mention of the case or any information about what the verdict is likely to be."
Sources said Pawan and Vinay — the youngest of the lot — reported 'their usual bouts of illness' on Thursday morning. The standard procedure followed: A short trip to the jail dispensary and popping a few pills for fever.
Later, they met their respective lawyers and chose to keep to themselves ever since — not even talking to each other. They returned to their cells before switching on the television.
"By now, they have been tutored enough about how even a death sentence by a trial court can be followed by an appeal before the high court and the Supreme Court can be approached for a mercy petition, which is a routine legal procedure in such cases," said another official.
On his part, sources claimed, Mukesh was the most confident of the lot as his counsel had assured him that his predominant role as the driver of the bus aboard which the crime took place would assure him 'some leniency'.
"They are being kept under a close watch. Any harm to them is the last thing we need," the official added.