The Supreme Court is set to hear a petition to block the release of the 20-year-old who was convicted for the December 16, 2012 gang rape and was released from a remand home on Sunday after serving his three-year sentence.
A juvenile at the time of the crime and conviction, he was given the maximum punishment for an underage offender, causing a furore across the country and sparking a raging debate on treating juveniles as adults in case of heinous crimes such as murder and rape. A bill with similar provisions is pending in Parliament.
Massive protests erupted in the Capital over the weekend as the police readied to hand over charge of the released convict to an NGO on Sunday where he will be kept till the Delhi government finalises a rehabilitation plan.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) had moved a last-minute appeal to stay the convict’s release, but the apex court dismissed it. However, the court posted the appeal with a holiday bench that scheduled the hearing for Monday.
Swati Maliwal, the DCW chief, also wrote to the Juvenile Justice Board to not free the underage convict as the matter was before the apex court.
“People of this country don’t want Nirbhaya’s rapist to walk free. India Gate protest shows that. Have a lot of hope from SC tomorrow,” she tweeted on Sunday.
HT reported on Saturday that the convict was moved out of a correctional facility to an NGO-run shelter on December 9 due to safety concerns. He is now no longer under police protection. His criminal record has also been expunged as per legal provisions and his identity shall not be disclosed.
The release triggered strong condemnation from sections of the civil society and the victim’s parents, who were detained by the police after sitting on a dharna at India Gate.
“We will not stop our fight here. We will now intensify our protest as my daughter has not got justice. Our government, whether Centre or state, they only listen to you when you protest and get lathicharged, else they don’t care,” said the victim’s father.
The parents of the victim – a 23-year-old paramedical student, however, said the DCW’s last-minute efforts were a “pretense” and “just for show”.
“Our fight was all about this convict not being allowed to walk free. If he has come out, what is the point of the hearing at the Supreme Court?” the victim’s mother told reporters.
The convict escaped the gallows because he was 17 years and nine months old at the time of his arrest. Four of his co-accused are on death row.
The decks were cleared for the release on Friday after the Delhi high court said it could not halt the process because his sentence had complied with existing laws.
On December 16, 2012, the juvenile along with five other men, brutally raped the paramedical student aboard a moving bus. The incident triggered unprecedented public outrage over sexual crimes in the country with many saying existing laws were too soft on underage criminals.