Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakur will hang, a fast-track court pronounced on Friday, nine months after the four and two others destroyed the life of a young woman on a moving bus in New Delhi and shook India’s conscience.
“Death to all,” additional sessions judge Yogesh Khanna announced in a packed courtroom around 2.30pm, passing the capital sentence three days after he had held the four guilty of the gang-rape and murder of the 23-year-old a paramedical student.
“The convicts be hanged by neck till they are dead.”
The judge added, “In these times when crime against women is on the rise, courts cannot turn a blind eye to such (a) barbaric and gruesome crime. There cannot be any tolerance. This crime in every way falls within the rarest of rare category warranting a death sentence.”
Gym instructor Vinay Sharma (20), fruit seller Pawan Gupta (19) and bus cleaner Akshay Thakur (28) howled in anguish, while fellow convict Mukesh Singh (26) stood stunned with folded hands.
Sharma cried out to the judge, “Sir ji, Sir ji (please sir, please sir).”
High drama ensued as defence lawyer AP Singh snapped at the judge and alleged the verdict was politically biased.
“Judge sahab, aapne satyameva jayate ke jagah jhootameva jayate ko uphold kiya, ye political pressure-eva jayate hai, vote bank politics-eva jayate hai (You have not upheld truth but lies. This decision has been taken under political pressure and for vote bank politics),” he said. Singh was defending Sharma and Thakur. READ: Gang of four: the men convicted for Delhi gang-rape
The sentence has to be confirmed by Delhi high court.
The young woman’s family heaved a sigh of relief after hearing of the death penalty.
“Halak mein saans atki thi, jo ab bahar nikli hai. Mein dhanywaad karti hun desh ke logon ka aur media ka (We were waiting with bated breath, now we are relieved. I thank the people of the country and the media),” her mother said.
The family had expressed dissatisfaction when an underage accomplice of the four convicts, who has since turned 18, was sent to a reform home for three years after a juvenile board handed down a guilty verdict on August 31.
The main accused in the case, Ram Singh, was found hanging in his Tihar jail cell on March 11.
The woman’s brother said it had been hard to watch the accused “laughing” during the trial. “This is true justice for my sister,” he said outside the court in Saket in south Delhi.
“It was death they deserved and death they got,” said the father of the woman’s male friend, who was badly injured during the savage December 16, 2012, attack. Victim of trial after rape
Verdict in less than three minutes, three days after conviction
Judge Yogesh Khanna took less than three minutes to deliver the sentence. Immediately after signing the 20-page order, he broke the nib of the pen and retired to his chamber.
Breaking the nib of the pen used to sign the order delivering death sentence has been a tradition since the days of British governance in India.
On September 10, the court had noted that the woman and her male friend were brutally assaulted, her abdomen ripped apart with an iron rod and internal organs pulled out.
They were thrown out of the bus moving at high speed and the accused had to run the vehicle over them. She was left on the road half-naked, seriously injured, severely bleeding and shivering in the winter chill.
The brutal crime on the night had sparked spontaneous public outrage across India, bringing thousands of people onto the streets in protest against authorities’ failure to ensure women’s safety.
It also triggered uproar in Parliament and prompted the government to enact a tough law to deal with crimes against women.
After the savage attack, the young woman had fought bravely for life and was airlifted to Singapore for treatment. Her injuries, however, left her with no real chance and she died on December 29.
The court had convicted the accused of gang-rape, murder, conspiracy, attempt to murder, unnatural offences, dacoity, destruction of evidence, kidnapping or abducting with intent to secretly and wrongfully confining a person, abducting to subject a person to grievous hurt and slavery, abducting woman to cause her defilement.
The court mainly relied on the three dying declarations of the victim, the statement of her male friend, DNA analysis, forensic and electronic evidence to hold them guilty.
Special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan had demanded noose for all convicts for the "grotesque and diabolic" crime.
"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."
(With inputs from Agencies)