Fast Track court awards death sentences to convicts of Delhi Rape case

14 Septembre 2013

The sessions court hearing the Delhi rape case for the past nine months delivered their verdict convicting all the accused while awarding them with death penalty. The rape of a 23-year old paramedical student while travelling with a friend in Delhi had shook the whole nation.

Crédit Photo -- Altaf Qadri / Ap Photo
Crédit Photo -- Altaf Qadri / Ap Photo
It was not the occurrence of rape but the brutality that irked protests from various quarters. There were mass demonstrations in various parts of the country but the one in Delhi was the largest of all. There had been a popular demand for death penalty right from the day the court convicted the four accused. Even the victim’s parents (the identity of a woman victim are not be revealed according to Indian laws) claimed death sentence to be justice done for their daughter. The Government of India had also amended the anti-rape laws to make it more stringent.

The incident that changed some lives

It all started on December 16, 2012 when a 23-year old paramedical student was returning home with her male friend after watching a movie at a theatre. On the way back, they took a bus which offered them a lift to home. But, little did they realize that this ride would have been the one that changes their lives forever. The male companion was assaulted and the 23-year old was forcibly taken to the back of the bus and repeatedly raped by six people in turns. Among this one was a juvenile. Ram Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh, raped her brutally. They inserted iron rods into her private parts and pulled out her intestines, according to medical reports of the victim. After brutalizing her, she was, along with her male companion thrown out from the moving bus after stripping them of their money and clothes. The accused later cleaned up the bus to remove all traces of evidence that could get them into trouble. The police later nabbed them in a few days while the victim’s condition was unpredictable. She was later moved from the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi to a specialty hospital in Singapore where she was prepared for organ transplants. However, she breathed her last in Singapore and this further aggravated the claim for a stricter penalty for the accused and a case of murder was also registered against them.

Justice Verma Committee

In the wake of this gruesome crime, a committee under Justice Verma, former Judge of Supreme Court was convened by the government to analyze the situation and come up with suitable recommendations to amend the laws as necessary. The public were invited to send their suggestions to the committee. These suggestions were taken into account and the committee corresponded to the government with their recommendations within a month. The committee recommended against death penalty and proposed a punishment of 7 years to life in prison depending on gravity of the crime committed. If the victim is put to a ‘vegetative state’, the term of imprisonment shall not be less than 20 years.

Apart from this, due to the act of a juvenile in this crime, there were popular suggestions from the public to reduce the age of juvenile from 18 to 16. The existing laws for juveniles award a maximum sentence of three years in juvenile correction homes. However, the committee suggested against reducing the age of juveniles. The suggestions from this committee were incorporated in the Criminal law (Amendment), 2013 which paved way for amendments to Indian Penal Code on laws relating to sexual offences. Prior to being passed by the parliament, the President of India had promulgated this as an ordinance to bring in an immediate effect.

The trial and sentences

The trail lasted for nearly nine months and all the accused were convicted. Though the prime accused Ram Singh hung himself while under custody, other four were handed over death sentence on Friday (13 August) after the final arguments were done on Wednesday (11 August). All four were awarded death sentence under section 302 of IPC (Indian Penal Code) for murder. Reading out the statement in open court, Justice Yogesh Khanna, Additional Sessions judge for the special fast track court hearing this case said, “The increasing trend of crimes against women can be arrested only once the society realize that there will be no tolerance from any form of deviance against women and more so in extreme cases of brutality such as the present one and hence the criminal justice system must instill confidence in the minds of people, especially women”. He even labeled this crime as “hair raising beastly and unparalleled behavior”.

Death penalty is not abolished in India; however, it is awarded in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases. Expressing anguish over the inhuman torture of the victim by the convicts, Justice Yogesh Khanna read out the sentence for the four convicts. Justice Yoegsh Khanna ordered the convicts to be hung until death, while delivering the judgment. A few days back, the juvenile in this case was awarded a term of three years by the Juvenile Justice Board (According to Indian laws the name of juvenile convicts must not be revealed). He was 17 years old while committing the crime. This had also sparked some protests and many, including the victim’s parents, claimed it to be a very lenient sentence for someone guilty of such a heinous crime.

Over the past months debates have ensued regarding death penalty. Many have questioned its rate of deterrence and said despite putting it into effect crime rates have not gone down. Even the Justice Verma committee voiced against death penalty, stating it was not a proven deterrent to heinous crimes. However, the crux of this issue is not about death penalty, but about the safety of women in the country. In a place where women are revered and worshipped in the forms of goddesses, such crimes against women do not depict a healthy scenario. There is also an issue of underreporting of rape and other forms of assault against women. It is high time the government ensure easy reportage of crimes is made possible for the victims. Also on the flip side, if at all stringent measures are taken to curb violence against women, steps must also be taken to prevent the misuse of such provisions.