New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentences of all four convicts in the fatal 2012 gang rape of Nirbhaya in a moving bus, a "rarest of rare" crime that sparked nationwide outrage over violence against women in the country.
"If ever a case called for hanging, this was it," said a bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice R. Banumathi. The ruling was applauded by relatives of the victim -- whose identity is protected by law -- in the courtroom.
The judges said the aggravating circumstances against Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur far outweighed the mitigating circumstances, such as their poor family background, age, good conduct in prison and their children cited in their favour.
"It is a barbaric crime and it has shaken the society's conscience," Justice Banumathi said, declining an appeal on behalf of the convicts.
Describing it as a crime of "mental perversion and extreme brutality" where in the entire intestine of the victim was perforated" in the "most savage and inhuman manner", Justice Misra said: "It is a story from a different world where there is irreverence for human beings."
The court said it was taking note of the "brutal, demonaical conduct of the convicts... and they don't deserve leniency".
The four were convicted for raping and assaulting the 23-year-old paramedical student inside a moving bus on December 16, 2012 which led to her death due to internal injuries 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.
The rapists, six in all, pounced on the young woman who had boarded the bus with her boyfriend to go home after seeing a movie.
After committing the crime, they dumped both on the side of a road. Some onlookers alerted the police. The sheer brutality of the crime led to nationwide revulsion -- and street protests.
A fifth accused, Ram Singh, committed suicide in the Tihar Central Jail here. The sixth, a juvenile, who was accused of ripping apart the woman's intestines, was sent to a correction home and has been released after serving his probation period.
Taking note of the serious injuries and the severe nature of the offence, the judges said they were upholding the death sentence first pronounced by a lower court and upheld by the Delhi High Court.
There were tears in Nirbhaya's mother's eyes when she heard the judges upholding the death sentence.
"I am very satisified. I am happy today," the mother said outside the courtroom.
The victim's grieving father said: "I am happy the Supreme Court has heard our voice and understood the suffering Nirbhaya underwent.
"It has given justice to Nirbhaya and the entire country," he said, referring to his daughter by the name given by the media.
The convicts' lawyer, A.P. Singh, pledged to file a review petition.
"I am not satisfied with the judgement," he told the media. "It is a violation of human rights. Someone cannot be hanged just because of public sentiments."
The last recourse for the convicts will be to file a mercy petition and seek clemency from President Pranab Mukherjee.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said she was happy. "It was a horrible experience and suffering for the family."
The Delhi Commission for Women welcomed the capital punishment. "Finally, justice was delayed but not denied," said its chief, Swati Maliwal.