A fast track court has convicted all four men – Mukesh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta – accused in the brutal gang rape and murder of physiotherapy student “Nirbhaya” on a moving bus in Delhi on December 16 last year.
The quantum of punishment will be delivered Wednesday morning after court listens to the arguments of the defense counsel. This will bring an end to a case that caused massive outrage across the country with people from all walks of life pouring out on to the streets, especially in capital New Delhi in huge numbers.
Given the verdict of the court, it is most probable that the guilty will be awarded death penalty – coinciding with the demands of the parents of the victim and most of the people across the country, especially the women rights activists.
The 23-year-old student was returning home with a male friend from a movie, and boarded a private bus in which, the guilty in an inebriated state, according to police, were already on the prowl, waiting for a girl to board the bus.
While her male friend was knocked unconscious, “Nirbhaya” was gang raped for half an hour by the victims who took turns before dumping both of them on a roadside, bleeding and naked.
A fortnight later, she died of critical injuries in a Singapore hospital.
The court has found the accused guilty in 13 offenses including gang rape, unnatural sex, murder, dacoity, conspiracy, kidnapping and destruction of evidence.
The rape laws were toughened in the country as pressure was built on the government by the media, activists, protesters and opposition political parties.
While the prosecution bats for the ‘rarest of the rare’ category punishment, the defense counsel has called it an “unfair trial”, and accused that today’s judgement was a result of ‘political and public pressure”.
Nevertheless, the father of the victim has expressed satisfaction with the conviction. “… we expect the judge to sentence all of them to death”, said Badrinath Singh.
“We will get complete closure only if all the accused are wiped off from the face of the earth. This is what they did to our daughter most brutally.”
The case was tried in a special fast –track court as activists have often accused the judiciary of moving at a snail’s pace – a sense of which can be made from the fact that this court also took nine months to pronounce its verdict.
One accused, Ram Singh, who was behind the wheel during the brutal assault, allegedly hanged himself in Tihar Jail with his bed sheet earlier in March this year. While his family alleged that the police murdered him, various reports in the local media said that his fellow inmates abused him; at one point, they said, he was even forced to drink his urine.
Last month, another accused, a juvenile, who was reported to have acted in the most brutal way during the assault, was sentenced to three years in a reformatory home.
Many politicians and activists criticised the punishment calling it ‘too little”. This also led to a debate in the country with experts demanding an amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act of the country, according to which a person below 18 is treated as a minor.