Seven years after the gang-rape of a student in a moving bus in India’s capital shocked the nation and sparked protests and dialogue about sexual violence, a Delhi court issued a death warrant to her rapists on Tuesday.
All the four death row convicts — Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh — shall be hanged on Jan 22 at 7am, the court order said.
It came after parents of the rape victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons but is referred to as ‘Nirbhaya’ (meaning ‘Fearless’), and the prosecutor moved the court seeking issuance of death warrants against the four convicts.
The four can try to escape the noose by filing a curative petition before the Supreme Court or a mercy petition to the President in 14 days.
The court told the lawyers of the convicts that while petitions are welcome, only reasonable arguments will be entertained.
Nirbhaya’s mother, Asha Devi, welcomed Tuesday’s court order, saying her daughter finally got justice. Devi said it would strengthen women’s trust in the judicial system.
Badrinath Singh, father of Nirbhaya, said he was happy with the court’s decision which, he hoped, will act as a deterrent.
Swati Maliwal, who heads the Delhi Commission for Women, said the court order is a victory for all ‘Nirbhayas’ in the country. She hailed Nirbhaya’s parents for their perseverance in the fight for justice.
The authorities of the Tihar jail, where the hanging will take place, have written to police in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state to provide a hangman. The four men may be hanged simultaneously as reports say a new frame for gallows is being prepared.
Nirbhaya was gang-raped and tortured with a rod by six persons on a moving bus on the intervening night of Dec 16-17, 2012 before she was dumped on the road. She died on Dec 29 in a Singapore hospital.
Ram Singh, one of the accused, committed suicide in Tihar Jail. Another, a minor, was released after serving a three-year term in a juvenile rehabilitation centre.
The rape caused national outrage and prompted the union government to toughen rape laws.
Although a trial court pronounced guilty verdict in the Nirbhaya case within a year after the rape, the case got delayed for years as the convicts used all options available in the legal system to delay their case.