Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 5
The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death penalty awarded to the four convicts of the December 16, 2012 gangrape-cum-murder case, saying the brutal, barbaric and diabolical manner of the crime made it “rarest of rare” warranting capital punishment.
“When we cautiously, consciously and anxiously weigh the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating factors, we are compelled to arrive at the singular conclusion that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances now brought on record,” the top court said rejecting the convicts’ appeals.
A three-judge bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice R Bhanumathi and Justice Ashok Bhushan took note of the fact that after the sexual and physical assault on the victim, the convicts tried to run the bus over them so that there would be no evidence against them and divided the loot among themselves.
Describing the brutal nature of the crime the court said it caused a "tsunami of shock" in society. It found no fault with the Delhi High Court’s verdict upholding the trial court’s decision to send them to the gallows.
The bench – which had reserved its verdict on March 27 – rejected their leniency plea, saying they treated the victim as an object of enjoyment with the single purpose of ravishing her.
The convicts who now face the gallows are Mukesh (29), Pawan (22), Vinay Sharma (23) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31).
Another accused – Ram Singh – had allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail, while the lone juvenile accused in the case was tried by a juvenile court which had sent him to a reformatory for three years. He is out after spending three years over there.
If the four convicts are hanged, it would be only the second case of rape and murder in India in which death penalty has been executed. Earlier, Dhananjay Chatterjee was hanged in a rape-cum-murder case in West Bengal in 2014.
The victim – a 23-year-old paramedic student – was raped in a moving bus in South Delhi in the intervening night of December 16 and 17, 2012 and was thrown out of the bus along with her friend after the crime. She died of grave intestinal injuries on December 29, 2012 at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
"It sounds like a story from a different world where humanity is treated with irreverence," Justice Misra said pronouncing the verdict in a jam-packed court.
As Justice Misra pronounced the verdict, many activists and lawyers started clapping. Some even said: "Shame! Shame!" in a feeble voice.
Justice R Bhanumathi, who pronounced a separate but concurring verdict, said, “If at all there is a case warranting award of death sentence, it is the present case. If the dreadfulness displayed by the accused in committing the gangrape, unnatural sex, insertion of iron rod in the private parts of the victim does not fall in the ‘rarest of rare category’, then one may wonder what else would fall in that category.”
However, she said: “Stringent legislation and punishments alone may not be sufficient for fighting increasing crimes against women. In our tradition-bound society, certain attitudinal change and change in the mindset is needed to respect women and to ensure gender justice.”
Justice Bhanumathi said: “Right from childhood years, children ought to be sensitised to respect women. A child should be taught to respect women in society in the same way as he is taught to respect men. Gender equality should be made a part of the school curriculum.”
“Imposition of appropriate punishment is the manner in which the courts respond to the society’s cry for justice against the crime. Justice demands that the courts should impose punishments befitting the crime so that it reflects public abhorrence of the crime. Crimes like the one before us cannot be looked with magnanimity,” Justice Bhanumathi added.
The court said the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances in the case, given the manner in which the convicts committed the crime and then attempted to kill the victim and her friend.
After the verdict, a visibly happy Nirbhaya's mother — who was present in the court – said, "I am satisfied with the judgment. I hope all other rape victims get justice in the same manner. I thank the media and society for their support.”
Advocate AP Singh — one of the defence counsel — recited an Urdu couplet to express his anguish over the verdict.
"Please also provide us with the English translation of it," Justice Bhanumathi said.
Later, Singh told The Tribune that he would file a review petition against the verdict.
What next for accused
The accused can now file a review petition and then a curative petition in the Supreme Court. If they lose the next two rounds of court battle, they could file a mercy petition before the President. The matter can again come back to the top court as a decision on a mercy petition is subject to judicial review.
The convicts had moved the top court challenging the high court's March 13, 2014 verdict upholding their death sentences. The Supreme Court had stayed their death sentence pending their appeals.
Senior counsel Siddharth Luthra — who represented the Delhi Police in the case — welcomed the verdict, saying: "In India mostly convicts are given leniency and mitigating circumstances are given undue importance. In this case the court has rightly held that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances.”
Senior advocates Raju Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde, who assisted the court as amicus curiae, had opposed death penalty for the convicts. Both were present in the court at the time of pronouncement. On Friday, Hegde refused to comment on the verdict.
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