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Nirbhaya gang-rape case: Delhi HC upholds death penalty awarded to 4 convicts

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Thursday upheld the death sentence awarded to the four convicts in the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl here on December 16, 2012 that shook the nation’s conscience and led to widespread protests.

A bench of justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani confirmed the sentence of Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh, saying the offence committed by them falls in the category of rarest of the rare and upheld their conviction.

“Death reference is accepted. Death sentence awarded by the trial court is affirmed. The appeals of the convicts are dismissed,” the bench said.

The parents of the victim were also present in the court at the time of pronouncement of the verdict.

“We have got full faith in the judiciary. We had expected this verdict. But the ultimate satisfaction will be when the convicts meet to their ultimate fate,” the mother of the 23-year-old paramedic told the media outside court room after the verdict was delivered.

“Hume pura nayay tabhi milega jab sab faansi par latkaye jaege (We will get justice only when all of them will be hanged),” she said.

The trial court had on September 13, last year awarded capital punishment to the four, saying they be “hanged till death” as the “beastly” and “hair-raising” manner in which the crime was committed against the girl fell in the rarest of the rare category.

The high court had reserved its verdict on January 3 after a marathon three-and-a-half-month long hearing on the death sentence reference sent to it by the trial court and the appeals of the four convicts.

On the night of December 16, 2012, Ram Singh, Vinay, Akshay, Pawan, Mukesh and a juvenile had gang-raped the girl in a bus after luring her and her 28-year-old male friend, who was also assaulted, on board the vehicle, which was later found to be plying illegally on Delhi roads.

The girl succumbed to her injuries on December 29, 2012 in a Singapore hospital.

Ram Singh, who was the prime accused, was found dead in his cell in Tihar Jail in March last year and the proceedings against him were abated.

The sixth accused, the juvenile was on August 31, 2013 convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the juvenile justice board.

Untitled-1The incident of gang rape in the running bus on the night of 16th December, 2012 when brought to light by Media, sparked an unprecedented public movement when people from every strata of Society in the Country came on common platform demanding justice for the victim. The outcry was for safety of women and punishment proportionate to the crime for the offenders. Public demand was for amending penal law thereby prescribing death sentence in deserving cases of rape/gang rape. The victim of gang rape committed in the moving bus is known as “Nirbhaya/Damini‟. Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 makes disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences punishable.

National and international community are more familiar with the identity of the victim being described as „Nirbhaya‟. To respect the anonymity of the victim which is also the requirement of law, wherever required, the victim would be referred as „Nirbhaya‟.  While delicate physique of a woman has made her vulnerable, her place and role in the growth of society has made her command utmost respect. These characteristics of a woman have been depicted by great Hindi Poet Jai Shankar Prasad in his epic Kamayani as :

Yeh aaj samajh to paayi hoon,
Main durbalta mein nari hoon,
Avyay ki sunder komalta,
Lekar main sabse haari hoon.

 (This I understand today, I am a woman, in weakness, The delicate beauty of my limbs, Because of them, I lose to all.)

Nari! tum kewal shraddha ho,
Vishwas-rajat-nag-pal-tal mein,
Piyush srot si baha karo,
Jeevan ki sundar samtal mein.

  (Oh woman! You are honor personified, Under the silver mountain of faith, Flow you, like a river of ambrosia, On this beautiful earth.)

Nirbhaya was on the verge of completing her Physiotherapy Course and provide healing touch to many patients in need of physiotherapy. Her fragile physique as a young girl rendered her totally helpless when the convicts took turn to rape her. She could only look towards her friend (PW-1) for help who was also pinned down and assaulted by the convicts to prevent him from coming to her rescue.

The convicts did not spare any cavity in her body as they not only satisfied their lust by committing rape per vagina and anal, but also put their male organ in her mouth. They did not stop there and after satisfying their lust, to draw sadistic pleasure, they inserted rods in her private part. After being gang raped and insertion of the rods, she was further tortured in most inhuman and barbaric manner by inserting hand in her vagina and pulling out her internal organ. She was not spared even thereafter and despite she being critical, they pulled her hair and dragged her from rear portion of the bus to the front gate and threw her out of the bus alongwith her friend in nude condition, in the bushes, on the road side. Nirbhaya and PW-1 were left there to die in a cold winter night in mid December (16th December) with no ray of hope in sight to get any assistance from the moving vehicles or passers-by to come to their rescue.

Perhaps the convicts were familiar with the insensitive attitude of this metro city which also finds reflection in the couplet : „Lagta hai sheher mein aaye ho naye, Ruk gaye ho raah, hadsa dekh kar. Nirbhaya and her friend PW-1 were obviously dumped under the belief that seeing a young male and female in nude condition on the road side at night, even the passers-by noticing them in that condition might feel hesitant to help them. Further, even if PW-1 could gather the courage to stand-up and support Nirbhaya to get up, being nude due to shame, they would not be able to move ahead to seek help from the persons in the moving vehicles on the road by signaling them to stop and remove them to some hospital for necessary medical aid.

The volcano that erupted in the form of protest in Delhi dispelled above notion. On the public outcry, a Judicial Committee headed by Justice J.S.Verma was set up by the Government to suggest amendment to Criminal Law to deal with sexual assault cases. Need of the hour was to satisfy the rage of the Society so that people continue to have faith in the Judicial System and are dissuaded to take law in their hands in an anxiety to deliver quick and instant justice.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 was passed amending Indian Penal Code to provide death penalty in rape cases that lead to death of the victim or leave her in a vegetative.

Nirbhaya and her friend had reposed complete confidence in the occupants of the contract bus while boarding the same to reach their destination. The four convicts and their associates must have been believed to be bonafide driver/conductor/cleaner/passengers. It was on account of such representation by the convicts leading to belief that they were being taken to their destination in the contract bus, they fell in the trap laid by the convicts. The convicts, misusing the confidence and faith of the victim and her friend, made them to board the bus so as to overpower them on the way and satisfy their lust. The crime was pre-planned and executed by resorting to diabolical method, exhibiting inhuman conduct in a ghastly manner, pricking the conscience of everyone in the society.

When the innocent hapless young lady was subjected to such barbaric treatment by the convicts who were in position of trust, their culpability assumes the proportion of extreme depravity and arouses a sense Of revulsion in the mind of the common man.

The motive of the convicts while alluring the victim and her friend to board the bus, motivation of the perpetrators, the vulnerability and the helplessness of the victim, the enormity of the crime, the barbaric and inhuman act of inserting rods and hand in her private part, taking out her internal organs, pulling her with hair, dragging her from rear portion of the bus to the front gate and throwing out of the bus alongwith her friend in nude condition on the road side, persuade us to hold that this is a case where not only to deter others from committing such atrocious crimes but also to give emphatic expression to society‟s abhorrence of such crimes, death penalty needs to be confirmed.

It stands established beyond reasonable doubt that it is a case of gravest crime of extreme brutality by the convicts shocking the collective conscience of the society and clearly falls under the yardstick laid down by the Apex Court in various decisions referred to by my noble sister Reva Khetrpal, J. while confirming the death penalty awarded to the convicts.

In the light of aforesaid, I am of the considered opinion that with regard to all the four convicts, death penalty awarded to them has to be confirmed. Thus, agreeing with the conclusion in the opinion of my venerated sister Reva Khetrapal, J. I endorse the directions confirming the death penalty to all the four convicts and dismissal of their appeals.

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