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13 Sep, 2013 09:11

4 attackers in Delhi gang rape case sentenced to hang

An Indian court has sentenced four men to the death penalty for the rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a Delhi bus last December. The judge rejected pleas for a lighter sentence and condemned the men to be hanged to death.

The sentence has to be confirmed by the Indian High Court before it can be carried out. Before this time the men may appeal to the High Court and ask for clemency from the president.

On Tuesday this week, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Mukesh Singh and Pawan Gupta were found guilty of the rape and murder of the young woman in New Delhi back in December 2012. After previously appealing for a lighter sentence, defense lawyers said that if hanging the men prevents further incidents of rape in India, then they might choose not to appeal the ruling in the High Court.

Delhi gang-rape case: If hanging them prevents incidents of rape in India, we will not appeal in High Court, says Defence lawyer.

— NDTV (@ndtv) September 13, 2013

Judge Yogesh Khanna said that Indian courts could not “turn a blind eye” to such crimes that had “shocked the collective conscience” of India.

"This case definitely falls in the rarest of rare categories and warrants the exemplary punishment of death," he stressed.

The victim’s father spoke to press following the ruling and said he was “happy our girl has got justice.”

The people of Delhi voiced their approval of the verdict, hailing it as a positive step in the fight against violence against women.

Indian women shout slogans outside the District court in Saket as they call for the death penalty the four men convicted of rape and murder in New Delhi on September 13, 2013. (AFP Photo/Roberto Schmidt)

“This is a very good decision. I think this will be effective in reducing crime against women as people will be scared. This should become a precedent in such cases,” said activist Rekha Palaria to Reuters. While 48-year-old street vendor Ashok Gupta said that the ruling was what people had been waiting for.  

“This should have happened long ago. I think this will instill fear in people. And they will think before they commit any crime against women,” Gupta told Reuters.

In addition to the four men, a 17-year-old teenager was sentenced to three years in a reform facility after being found guilty in August of participating in the rape. As he was technically a minor under Indian law when the crime was committed, three years was the maximum possible sentence he could receive. 

According to a police spokesperson, the teenager was the most violent, and apparently “sexually abused his victim twice and ripped out her intestines with his bare hands."

An Indian woman stands among a group of men inside the gate of the Saket district court in New Delhi on September 13, 2013, as they watch members of the media interview a lawyer for one of the convicted men in a rape case. (AFP Photo/Roberto Schmidt)

Another suspect, Ram Singh, was believed to have committed suicide in custody in March. Police say that the suspect hanged himself, but Singh’s family alleges that he was murdered.

Protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Delhi prior to the ruling, calling for the death sentence for the four men.

The 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist was going home on the bus after seeing a film with a male friend when she was attacked by five men and a teenager on December 16. The girl was dragged to the back of the bus, while her friend was beaten unconscious with a metal bar by assailants. Medical reports say the victim sustained severe injuries to her abdomen, intestines and genitals in the attack.

Both victims were dumped on the side of the road following the attack. The student died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

The incident triggered massive protests across India, calling for an end to the mistreatment of women. It also ignited an intense debate over sexual violence and the rights of women in India which in turn resulted in some legal reforms.