India’s top court has upheld the death sentences of four men who were convicted of the murder, gang-rape and torture of a 23-year-old medical student on a moving bus in New Delhi nearly five years ago.
The Supreme Court held that the nature of the crime, which triggered massive protests across the country, made it a fit case for the death penalty.
It described the assault as “most brutal, barbaric and diabolical”, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
The victim’s father said he was happy with the judgment and demanded that the murderers be hanged quickly. “The court heard our voice and gave justice,” Badri Singh said.
Prosecutors said the four – Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh – took their victim to the back of a private bus in the capital, raping her and causing internal organ damage. She died two weeks later of injuries in a hospital in Singapore, where she was taken for treatment.
Attorney AP Singh, representing three of the men, said the court should have given a chance to reform and avoided the death penalty. He said he would seek a review of yesterday’s judgment.
The outrage over the attack prompted quick action on legislation, doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalising voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. Indian law-makers also voted to lower to 16 from 18 the age at which a person can be tried as an adult for heinous crimes.
Ram Singh, the bus driver and the fifth suspect in the crime, was found hanging in his cell in Tihar prison in March 2013 – months before the suspects were convicted.
The sixth suspect was just months short of his 18th birthday when the crime took place. He walked out of a correction home in December 2015 after spending three years – the maximum punishment for minors – sparking public outrage and an overhaul of the juvenile law.
Indian courts are notorious for delays as more than 30 million cases are pending before them. In view of protests, the Indian government put the gang-rape case on a fast-track trial.
Swati Maliwal, chief of the New Delhi Commission for Women, said people were not scared of committing crimes because of long delays in bringing them to justice.