New Delhi, 20 March 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Four men were executed on Friday for the gang rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012, bringing closure to a case that shone the spotlight on widespread sexual violence faced by women in India.
A lone hangman carried out the executions after courts rejected last-minute pleas by the convicts’ lawyers, with the hearings going till late Thursday night.
“The four men were hanged at 5:30 am. Their bodies have been sent for post mortem after which they will be handed over to their families,” said a spokesman for Delhi’s Tihar Jail where the hangings were held.
“Our daughter has finally got justice … the sun will rise Friday with new hope for the daughters of India,” the rape victim’s mother, Asha Devi, said outside the jail, where a large crowd gathered before dawn.
They held up posters that said “Justice for Nirbhaya” and “Death to rapists,” and broke into cheers as news of the hanging was confirmed.
Nirbhaya – “fearless” in Hindi – was the name given to the 23-year-old physiotherapy student by the Indian media as a rape victim cannot be named under Indian law.
The young woman was gang raped and assaulted with an iron rod on a moving bus in the Indian capital on December 16, 2012.
She and her male companion had boarded the bus after watching a film. He was also brutally beaten and both were thrown out of the bus. Passers-by found them – she was naked, they were both bleeding – and called the police.
The young woman died nearly two weeks later at a Singapore hospital. The incident sparked mass protests in India and an international outcry.
Six men who were on the bus, including one who was a juvenile at the time of the crime, were accused.
Ram Singh, who was the bus driver and one of the perpetrators, allegedly committed suicide in Tihar jail at the beginning of the trial.
He was let off in 2015 after three years in a reform home. This is the maximum punishment permissible for a juvenile.
The others – Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, and Mukesh Singh – were sentenced to death by a trial court in 2013.
Mukesh Singh was bus driver Ram Singh’s brother and Akshay Thakur was his assistant. Vinay Sharma was a gym assistant and Pawan Gupta a fruit vendor.
All of them lived in the Ravi Dass slum in south Delhi. They were aged between 20 and 30 at the time of the crime.
The trial court’s 2013 judgement was upheld by higher courts but the process of appeals and petitions dragged on until hours before the hangings.
The death warrants were issued for the first time on January 7 and were deferred four times as lawyers used various legal options to delay the hangings.
“It has been a long fight for justice. I dedicate this day to all daughters of this country, we will continue the battle,” Asha Devi said.
Nirbhaya’s father Badrinath Singh said his family would be meeting lawyers to identify grey areas in the trial procedure that came up with this case and push to address them.
A death sentence is very rare in India and the sentence being carried out is even more infrequent. Five men have been executed since 1995 – three of them were terrorists.
“It’s a historic day, Nirbhaya got justice after over seven years, her soul must have found peace today. The country has given a strong message to rapists that if you commit this crime you will be hanged,” chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women Swati Maliwal said.
“Study after study has proved that the death sentence is not a deterrent to rape, but this is a closure for Nirbhaya’s family,” Tara Kaushal, author of Why Indian Men Rape told NDTV news channel.
Despite stricter laws and measures to increase security for women since the Delhi gang rape, a high number of such crimes continue to be reported in India.
According to the latest government data available, 33,356 women and girls were raped in India in 2018. Activists say many more rapes go unreported.
The Delhi gang rape trial was one of the faster trials in sexual assault cases. Most drag on for years and there are few convictions often due to shoddy police investigations and browbeating of victims’ families.
The conviction rate in 2018 for rape cases was 27.2 per cent, 5 per cent lower than the previous year, according to government data.
“The police, courts, governments – we need to together pledge today that we will end all the systemic shortcomings to ensure that in the future no daughter will face what Nirbhaya did,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said.