Delhi gang-rape case: Death penalty for all the four accused

The prosecutors had demanded death penalty for four men convicted of raping and murdering a young intern on Dec 16, 2012.

NEW DELHI: Nine months after the horrific gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi triggered nationwide outrage, a special court on Friday sentenced to death four convicts in the case.

Additional sessions judge Yogesh Khanna announced the punishment in a packed courtroom at around 2.30 pm.

The sentence has to be confirmed by Delhi high court.

Holding that the crime committed on a moving bus was in the "rarest of rare category", the court noted that the girl and her male friend were brutally assaulted, her abdomen ripped apart with an iron rod and internal organs pulled out.
 
They were thrown out of the bus moving at a high speed and the accused tried to run the vehicle over them. She was left on the road half-naked, seriously injured, severely bleeding and shivering in the winter chill.
 
The judge had convicted Mukesh Singh, 26, Vinay  Sharma, 20, Pawan Gupta, 19, and Akshay Thakur, 28, on September 10, holding that there was strong evidence they had committed the brutal gang-rape and a "cold-blooded murder".

On Wednesday, prosecutors had demanded death penalty for four men convicted of raping and murdering the young intern, saying it was important to send a signal to the country that such crimes would not be tolerated.

"The common man will lose faith in the judiciary if the harshest punishment is not given," special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan told trial judge Yogesh Khanna.

Inside the court, lawyers for the four men pleaded for mercy and repeatedly highlighted the reluctance of Indian judges in the past to impose the death sentence.

Judges should not be bloodthirsty, said lawyer Vivek Sharma, who represents 19-year-old Gupta, the youngest of the four on trial. "You can't give capital punishment on demand."

Sharma said his client had not taken part in the rape or torture of the woman. He asked the court to take into account that Gupta was the sole breadwinner for his family and had to take care of his elderly parents and brother and sister.

A.P. Singh, lawyer for Kumar Singh and Sharma, said the death penalty was a "primitive and cold blooded and simplistic response to complex issues". He painted his clients as downtrodden who deserved a second chance.

Mukesh Singh, who said he had been driving the bus at the time of the attack, should not face the same penalty as his co-accused, his lawyer V.K. Anand told the court.

"At best, he can be held for aiding the others. Punish him, but punish him keeping in mind he was only driving the bus."

On Tuesday, the fast- track court found Mukesh (26), Vinay Sharma (20), Pawan Gupta (19) and Akshay Thakur (28) guilty of murder, gang rape, unnatural sex, criminal conspiracy, dacoity, destruction of evidence, kidnapping and attempting to murder the victim's male friend, the sole eyewitness.

Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna delivered the 237- page judgement, noting that that the crime was committed in an extremely brutal manner. "The major part of her intestine was pulled out from the body," the judge said.

The fifth convict Ram Singh committed suicide in Tihar Jail in March this year. The sixth convict was a juvenile at the time of the incident and has been given a three- year term in a reformation home.

The court trashed the alibis offered by the accused, describing them as inconsistent and contradictory in nature.

On Mukesh's plea that he was only driving the bus and had not participated in the gang rape, the court said in a case of gang rape and murder the liability of all the accused is equal. The court also derived the intention of the accused to kill the victims from the fact that after the crime, they were thrown into the bushes in a naked condition on a winter night so that their presence could not be easily noticed by passers-by.

"They first attempted to throw them out of the moving bus from its back door but since it was jammed, they dragged both the victims in an injured, unconscious and naked condition by pulling their hair to the front door of the bus and presuming them to be dead, threw them out on a chilly night, that too at a very dangerous place, the main Jaipur highway," the court said.

A unique modus operandi was adopted by the accused, the Delhi court said on Tuesday while holding them guilty of 13 offences.

"The accused adopted a unique modus operandi to do the acts," Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna said in his judgment.

"They, besides causing external bodily injuries, inserted the rods in the abdomen of the victim. They did this act repeatedly and pulled out internal organs even by their hands," the court noted.

The judge also observed: "The important aspect of this trial is the manner in which both rods and hands were used for damaging the alimentary canal and pulling it out from the body (of the girl). This act of complete destruction of the most vital parts of the body can never be termed as intending to cause bodily injuries and rather it will be an act done with intention of causing death."

The court noted that the accused were acting in a premeditated manner and deceived the victims into boarding the bus thinking it is going towards their destination.

"After her body became devoid of any resistance, iron rods and hands were inserted into the abdominal cavity, the court noted.

The court further said the gang rape victim did not die of medical negligence. Justice Khanna rejected the defence's argument that the girl did not die of injuries inflicted on her by the accused and instead succumbed due to medical negligence and delay in rushing her to the hospital.

Who are the four accused

MUKESH SINGH

Mukesh, 26, is the younger brother of Ram Singh, another rape accused who died under mysterious circumstances inside Tihar Jail. Mukesh worked as a cleaner on the bus. According to the police, Mukesh was driving when the student and her friend were lured into the bus. Mukesh is accused of raping and beating the student and her friend with an iron rod.

VINAY SHARMA

A 20-year-old gym assistant and fitness trainer, Vinay is the only one among the accused who has completed his school education and can communicate in English. Vinay had denied that he was involved in the rape and claimed that he was attending a music concert along with co- accused Pawan Gupta.

AKSHAY THAKUR

A 28-year-old school dropout, he was arrested from his native village in Bihar. Thakur worked as a helper on the bus and tried to destroy all evidence of the incident by meticulously cleaning the bus. He moved to Delhi from Bihar in 2011 and is reportedly married and has a son.

PAWAN GUPTA

A 19-year-old fruit seller, he had refuted all charges and had claimed he was attending a music concert along with Vinay at the time of the crime. His father appeared as a witness and claimed his son was innocent. While he is said to have admitted to his crime at the beginning of the trial, his lawyer has denied he made any statement.

What happened on the night of December 16, 2012

Police said the 23-year-old physiotherapy student and her friend were lured into the bus, both were beaten and then the woman was taken to the rear of the bus and raped. They were then thrown, bleeding, on to a dark roadside. The woman died in a Singapore hospital nearly two weeks later where she was airlifted for specialised treatment.
 
According to the chargesheet, the juvenile had subjected the 23-year-old physiotherapist to sexual abuse twice, including once when she was unconscious. He extracted her intestine with his bare hands and suggested she be thrown off the moving vehicle devoid of her clothes, it says.
 
"Of all the persons in the bus, two had engaged in the most barbarism - Ram Singh, the main accused in the case, and the juvenile," said an officer.
 
"Both of them had subjected her to sexual abuse twice. Singh was the first to rape her followed by the juvenile and then Akshay. Later, when she lost consciousness, Singh and the juvenile raped her a second time."

The juvenile used his 'sing-song' whistle to lure the couple aboard the bus.

As the bus drove through the streets of the capital, the men repeatedly raped and tortured the 23-year-old with a metal bar before dumping her and her friend, naked and semi-conscious, on the road, prosecutors said. Her friend later recovered, but the woman's internal injuries were so severe that she died in a Singapore hospital two weeks after the attack. (With inputs from agencies)