December 16 killers hanged to death before daybreak
What began on the night of December 16, 2012, ended on the morning of March 20, 2020.
Four convicts of the brutal Delhi gang rape and murder case — one that brought young people across the nation out on the streets in protest and ensured the overhaul of laws governing crimes against women — were hanged to death on Friday at 5.30 am inside Tihar’s jail number 3.
Outside the gates of the 400-acre prison complex, a crowd of over 200 people waited for news of the hanging, many of them carrying Indian flags and placards thanking the judiciary. They were there since midnight.
At 5.34 am, the prison’s director general Sandeep Goel issued a press statement via WhatsApp: “All 4 convicts hanged at 5.30 am.”
An officer, who was at the hanging courtyard, said the four men showed little emotion before the execution was carried out.
“One of them gifted paintings to his mother and the jail superintendent. He also gifted a Hanuman Chalisa to his mother. They did not express any last wish,” said the officer, who asked not to be named.
About 40 minutes later, at 6.10 am, the four men — Mukesh Singh, 32, Vinay Sharma, 26, Pawan Gupta, 25, and Akshay Thakur, 31 — were declared dead by the prison’s resident medical officer.
This was the first time that four death row convicts were hanged simultaneously at Tihar.
Seven years and three months ago, they, along and two other people — Ram Singh, who died in custody; and a minor who was later sentenced by a juvenile court — gang-raped and brutally assaulted a 23-year-old paramedic student inside a moving bus in south Delhi.
Prison officers said that while they had completed the preparation for the hangings weeks ago, it was not clear if the execution would take place till the night before. The defence counsel, who filed multiple petitions across courts over the past two months, knocked the doors of the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court between Thursday night and Friday morning (until three hours before the hanging), seeking a stay on the hanging on technical grounds. The two courts refused.
The four were first sentenced to death by a trial court in September 2013. The decision was upheld by the Delhi high court in March 2014 and later by the Supreme Court in May 2017.
Hours after the hanging, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Justice has prevailed. It is of utmost importance to ensure dignity and safety of women…”
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that it had taken seven years to get justice for the woman. In the backdrop of the convicts availing legal remedies that led courts to change the hanging date three times, he said, “…We have to work together to address the various loopholes in our judicial system that favours the culprits.”
At the Dwarka home of the woman’s family, neighbours met her parents, Asha Devi and Badrinath Singh, with sweets to congratulate them. “Everyone is so happy, and for us, it is a load off our chest,” Singh told reporters outside his house.
The two were also present in high court around midnight, and Supreme Court till 2.30am, when the counsel of the convicts made a last attempt to seek stay on the hanging. The young woman’s mother told reporters that March 20 would be remembered as a day in honour of all the women in the country. She thanked the Indian judiciary, the President, and said that though there was delay, they had finally got justice.
“Today, she got justice and girls of the country got justice.... The execution of the four convicts will be a message for the entire country and that families will start teaching their sons and use the hanging as an example. The loss can never be repaired but I hope to help others and continue living,” she told HT.
In another part of the city, inspector Anil Sharma, who was the investigating officer of the case in 2012, said the execution of the four men ensured he fulfilled a promise made to the young woman while she was fighting for her life at Safdarjung Hospital. But Sharma said he has to live with one regret: “I couldn’t save her life.”
The woman died on December 29, 2012, in a Singapore hospital.