Nine months after that cold December night when a 23-year-old woman was raped on a moving bus, a crime so heinous it cut short a promising young life and riveted an entire nation, a fast-track court handed the death penalty to the four men convicted of the act.
“The convicts shall be hanged by the neck till they are dead,” additional sessions judge Yogesh Khanna said, bringing the seven-month-long trial to a close. The men were pronounced guilty on Tuesday.
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.
An equally dramatic response came from defence counsel AP Singh, who yelled at the judge: “You have not upheld the truth but lies. This decision has been taken under political pressure and for vote bank politics.”
On the other side of the courtroom, the teary-eyed parents of the victim hugged each other. “We got justice. We are happy. We were waiting with bated breath and now we are relieved,” they said.
Their son 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.
“It was death they deserved and death they got,” the Guardian quoted the father of the victim’s male friend, who was badly injured in the December 16 attack, as saying.
“At a time when gruesome crimes against women have become rampant, courts can’t turn a blind eye to the need to send a strong message to the perpetrators. This crime has shaken the collective conscience of society,” Khanna said — breaking the nib of his pen as he signed off on the order, an old tradition associated with death sentences.
Pointing out that the “ghastly act” fit into the rarest-of-rare category, the judge said, “This extreme mental perversion isn’t worthy of condonation.”
Outside his court, the crowds erupted in celebration.
The sentence needs to be confirmed by the Delhi high court. The defence said it would appeal against the verdict.
Earlier on August 31, another accused was convicted and sent to a reform home as he was a minor at the time of the crime. The sixth accused, Ram Singh, was found hanging in his Tihar jail cell on March 11.