By Prarthana Mitra
The Supreme Court on July 9 dismissed the petition to review the death sentence of three of the four convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case. Upholding the penalty in a historic announcement, the three-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by CJI Dipak Misra and comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and R Bhanumathi pronounced the verdict on Monday.
Thank you, Supreme Court of India for upholding the death sentence to four of Nirbhaya's rapists and murderers. Wonder if the anti-capital punishment absolutists will protest against the #NirbhayaVerdict & hold candle light march at India Gate for the rapists to be hanged!
— Aarti Tikoo Singh (@AartiTikoo) July 9, 2018
The long, drawn-out legal procedure
On May 5, 2017, the apex court had awarded death penalty to the four accused in the gangrape and brutal murder case that shook the nation in the winter of 2012.
Three of the convicts, Mukesh (29), Pawan Gupta (22) and Vinay Sharma (23), subsequently filed review pleas challenging the verdict. However, on Monday, the top court rejected the petition, after they failed to ascertain any “error apparent on the face of record” in the judgment.
The fourth death row convict Akshay Kumar Singh (31) had not filed a review petition against the 2017 verdict to uphold capital punishment. Another accused, Ram Singh, had allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail, whereas the only juvenile involved in the case was convicted by a juvenile justice board and released from a reformatory centre within three years.
Nirbahaya’s family reacts
Six years after the heinous rape of the 23-year-old paramedic student on a night bus in the national capital, justice was finally delivered to Nirbhaya’s parents who spoke to CNN post-verdict, lamenting, “There has been no change. The condition of girls and women is worsening by the day. The only change is that cases have been increasing.”
Nevertheless, they welcomed the ruling, calling it a “very happy news“. “The Supreme Court upholding its verdict is a strong message to those who commit such heinous crimes. Our faith in the judiciary has been reinstated. I appeal to the prime minister to take concrete steps against atrocities towards young girls and women,” Asha Devi, the mother of the victim, said after the verdict.
#NirbhayaVerdict | ANI quotes Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi: They were not juveniles. It is unfortunate that they committed such crime. This decision reaffirms our trust in the court that we will definitely get justice pic.twitter.com/RYohyyiWaO
— Times of India (@timesofindia) July 9, 2018
As the inhuman details of the attack surfaced, the case drew umbrage from all corners of the world. Nirbhaya who boarded the fateful bus with a male companion on December 16, 2012, became an emblem for the sorry state of women’s safety in the national capital. The six accused not only took turns in raping her but mutilated her private parts with metal rods after assaulting her friend, before throwing them out of the bus in South Delhi, where they waited on the roadside, unconscious, unclothed and untended to for 45 minutes.
Later, when the case received national coverage, the victim now dubbed Nirbhaya was transported to a private hospital in Singapore where she succumbed to her injuries. The brutality of the attack and her determination to survive long enough to identify her attackers to the Delhi police led to angry demonstrations by activists, civilians, celebrities and politicians around the country and the rest of the world.
The case also compelled then-ruling Congress government to introduce several stringent changes to laws on brutal crimes against women. But the lack of radical improvement in women’s safety or justice is evidenced by the alarming recurrence of such incidents even today, with no sign of abatement or legal redressal.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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