In a much-awaited judgment, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of four people, convicted of assaulting, gang-raping and murdering a 23-year-old in the national capital in December 2012. The Nirbhaya case, which created a wave of shock and anger across the country, led to nationwide protests calling for strict action against the culprits and stronger laws to ensure safety of women.
The apex court bench, while pronouncing its judgment on Friday, observed that the victim was treated in a ‘devilish manner’ which was ‘humanly inconceivable’. “It sounds like a story from a different world where humanity has been treated with irreverence,” the three-judge bench said. It added that the incident brought about a ‘tsunami of shock’ across the country.
Of the six people convicted for the heinous crime, Ram Singh was found hanging in jail and another, a juvenile, was tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and completed three years in a remand home. Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh were sentenced to death by a Delhi-based fast track court in 2013, the verdict of which was later upheld by the Delhi High Court in 2014. The high court had described the offense as ‘unparalleled in the history of criminal jurisprudence’ and said the ‘exemplary punishment’ was the need of the hour.
Also read: Highlights from the SC judgment
Reacting to the verdict, Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi told PTI, “Though we have lost our daughter, we are satisfied that the court has awarded death sentence to her perpetrators.” Her father said justice has been meted to the family and the nation.
The defence council, led by AP Singh, said they will appeal against the verdict again. “You cannot sentence somebody to death just to make an example in the society. Human rights is in tatters,” AP Singh told PTI. “Justice not done, we will file review petition after reading the order.”
Politicians cutting across party lines also reacted to the apex court judgment.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told PTI, “It’s a big day for the country’s rule of law. There was a public outcry and tension in the country regarding this case. People were angry. The injustice done to the brave girl was shameful and cruel. The country was waiting (for the verdict).”
“I welcome the hon’ble Supreme Court verdict upholding the death sentences of the accused in Nirbhaya case. Justice prevailed,” Union Minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi told PTI, “Feel deeply for courageous family of brave ‘Daughter of India’, became symbol of all women’s fight against sexual violence.”
“I am happy that the verdict has been upheld though I wish it had come sooner,” said Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. She was instrumental in the passage of the Juvenile Justice Bill that was passed earlier this year.
Congress spokesperson Randeep S Surjewala said justice has been delivered in the ‘heart-wrenching’ case. However, he questioned whether everything is being done to provide a safe environment to women. “NCRB data of 22.2% rise in ‘Rape Cases’ is a chilling reminder to the Govt & society towards building a safe environment for our women.
“Still,6 women are raped daily in National Capital,Delhi.1000Cr #Nirbhaya fund not utilised.Only 20 out of 660 ‘One Stop Centres’ set up.Why?” he asked on Twitter.
CPM leader Brinda Karat said that while she is against capital punishment, the strictest punishment was needed for the heinous crime. She also questioned the selective nature of the judicial process, in light of the Bilkis Bano case, in which the convicts were handed only life sentences.
Delhi Commission for Women head Swati Maliwal welcomed the decision. She said justice was delayed but not denied.
On December 16, 2012, Nirbhaya (as the victim is referred by) boarded a private bus along with a male companion after watching a film in Saket. When they realised that the bus was headed towards the direction opposite to their destination , a scuffle broke out between the victim’s friend and the occupants of the bus. Nirbhaya and her friend were questioned as to why they were out together at such a late hour. Then, they were assaulted.Nirbhaya succumbed to her injuries at a hospital in Singapore two weeks later. Her companion survived.
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