At 5.30 am Friday, the four convicts in the Delhi December 16 gangrape and murder case, that shook the nation and led to sweeping changes in the country’s rape laws, were hanged inside Tihar’s Jail Number 3.
The hanging was carried out after a day of drama, lasting till early morning Friday, in three different courts — the Supreme Court, Delhi High Court and a lower court in the Capital. Each rejected their pleas seeking a stay on execution.
After the four — Mukesh (31), Pawan Gupta (24), Vinay Sharma (25) and Akshay Kumar Singh (33) — had been left hanging for 30 minutes, a doctor examined them and declared them dead, Delhi Prisons DG Sandeep Goel said. Their bodies were sent for post-mortem before being handed over to their families.
Tihar Jail sources said the four spent a sleepless night, with at least 15 guards each keeping watch. “They kept pacing up and down their cells, enquiring if the court had sent a directive. At 4.45 am, the District Magistrate read out the death warrant to them, they were given a fresh set of clothes, and taken to the gallows,” a source said.
The hanging came just two hours after the final pleas of the convicts were rejected by a Supreme Court bench. Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna heard them out from 2.30 am to 3.30 am, after the Delhi High Court, sitting till midnight, rejected their petition against execution. In its order, the HC told the counsel for the accused: “We are very close to the time when your clients will meet God.”
Welcoming their execution, the victim’s mother said, “I am proud of my daughter. If she was alive today, I would have been known as a doctor’s mother. Justice was denied but, finally, it happened. I thank the judiciary, our President, and our governments.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the hanging, saying “Justice has prevailed”. “Together, we have to build a nation where the focus is on women empowerment, where there is emphasis on equality and opportunity,” he tweeted.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “The whole country had been waiting for justice for the last seven years… We have to work together to address the loopholes in our judicial system that favour culprits.”
People started gathering outside Tihar Jail by 4 am Friday, with the national flag and placards, in anticipation of the hanging. At 5.30 am, as news of the execution came, the crowd burst into chants of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
Six people were convicted of the brutal rape and murder of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student in a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012. She died 13 days later at a hospital in Singapore of her injuries. The incident led to protests across the country, and the Justice Verma Committee set up subsequently recommended that all forms of sexual contact without consent, including non-penetrative, be regarded as sexual assault.
Of the six accused, one was a juvenile at the time and released after serving the maximum sentence of three years, while another, Ram Singh, died of reported suicide in Tihar Jail in 2013. The Supreme Court first upheld the death penalty for them in May 2017.
In the appeal in the Supreme Court early Friday morning, advocate A P Singh sought “permission for the family of Pawan and Akshay to meet them”. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, after checking with officials, said the jail manual didn’t allow a meeting at this late juncture.
Singh cited documents to claim that Pawan had been a juvenile at the time of the crime, and argued that “one convict of these four may not have been party to premeditated crime. He may have committed the rape but may not have been party to conspiracy to murder, and may have been bullied by others who were senior to him.”
Dismissing the petition, the Supreme Court said, “The plea of juvenility was duly considered and rejected by the courts… Court had considered all facts and found him guilty and convicted.”
The hangman, Pawan Jallad, brought in from Meerut, was paid Rs 15,000 for each hanging. The last hanging was carried out in Tihar in 2013, of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Friday was the first time four men were hanged together inside the prison complex.
The victim’s mother said the family “will continue fighting for the daughters of India”. “If such a crime happens to a woman or a girl in your family, then first extend support to the woman,” she said.
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