Judge Yogesh Khanna today sentenced four men to death for the gang rape and murder of a female physiotherapy student, and the beating of her male friend in New Delhi last December. The punishment for a crime that outraged people the world over was applauded inside and outside of the courthouse. The method of execution will be hanging.
The sentencing hearing lasted only five minutes and concluded with the one of the convicts breaking into tears, while the others shouted for leniency, and defense attorney A. P. Singh accused the judge of taking politics, rather than justice, into account in handing down the decision.
The attack occurred on December 16 of last year as the two victims were returning home from a movie theater. They were lured into a bus by six men who beat them with a metal rod, rendering Uttar Pradesh, the male victim, unconscious and fracturing bones throughout his body. The six assailants then repeatedly raped the woman. Eventually they pierced her abdomen with the metal rod and tore away at her intestines using both the rod and their bare hands. After that the criminals tossed the victims out of the bus while it was in motion, and then attempted to run them over with the vehicle.
While Pradesh recovered from his injuries, the female victim had to have many medical procedures because of the vicious attack. On December 27 she lost consciousness while being flown to Mount Elizabeth Hospital. She would never wake up again, and died early in the morning of December 29.
Of the six, all of which were arrested within a few days of the attack, one has been tried separately and convicted. He was sentenced to three years in a reformatory, which is the maximum in his case, as he was a minor at the time of the crime, which is also why his identity has not been disclosed. He was credited for the eight months he spent awaiting trial. There was much public outrage about the short length of his incarceration.
Ram Singh, thought to be the ringleader of the group was found dead from hanging inside of his cell last March. Authorities ruled his death a suicide, though his family and defense attorney claim he was murdered.
The remaining four men convicted of the crime, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, and Pawan Gupta were not only sentenced to death; but were also given lengthy prison terms for a number of charges related to the attack. They were also fined 55,000 rupees each, as well as ordered to pay restitution to the family of the gang raped and murdered victim, although the amount of this has yet to be decided by the Delhi Legal Service Authority.
In the aftermath of the crime, protests broke out throughout India demanding justice in the case, as well as calling for preventative action on the part of the police, and legal reform from the government. This has resulted in a number of changes, including fast track courts and harsher penalties for sexual offenses, including the death penalty for some rapes.
Despite the sentence of death against the gang rapists and murderers, the punishment still has to be approved by the Delhi high court, and the four convicts intend to appeal, which can be a lengthy process.
By Milton Ruiz