2012 Gang Rape Convicts' Hanging: Justice Delayed But Not Denied
"Our faith in Constitution or judicial system was getting shaken, but that trust has been restored. This hanging will send a stern warning to criminals to dare not commit such acts," Asha Devi, Nirbhaya's mother said.
At 5.30 this morning, India hanged four men accused and convicted for the rape of the woman dubbed Nirbhaya, India’s daughter.
The brutal rape and murder, which came along with a savage assault in an empty moving bus on the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, in New Delhi in 2012, resulted in a long, drawn out case that shocked the world and shamed the country over its appalling record for crimes against women.
Six men were arrested for the brutal attack. One suspect, Ram Singh, was found dead in his jail cell in March 2013, having apparently taken his own life. Another, who was aged 17 at the time, was released in 2015 after serving three years in a reform facility - the maximum term possible for a juvenile in India.
Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) were executed at 5.30 am for who came to be known the world over as Nirbhaya, the fearless one. Mukesh Singh was unemployed. Pawan Gupta was a fruit seller. Akshay Thakur was a bus cleaner. Vinay Sharma was a gym instructor.
In 2017, the Supreme Court upheld death sentences against the four men, with judges ruling the crime met the "rarest of the rare" standard required to justify capital punishment in India.
But this is not their story. This is hers.
As the men were being hanged at dawn, hundreds of police were deployed outside the jail to control a crowd that waited to celebrate the execution. Some held placards that read "Justice for women" and "Hang the culprits".
Attacked on the moving bus and left for dead on roadside, the victim clung to life for two weeks before succumbing to her injuries. She died in a hospital in Singapore, where she had been transferred in a desperate attempt to save her. Outrage over her death led to India passing tough new laws against sexual violence, including the death penalty for rape in some cases. And yet, one woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in India in 2018, according to government data released last month, underlining the country's reputation as one of the worst places in the world to be female.
Women reported almost 34,000 rapes in 2018, barely changed from the year before. Just over 85% led to charges, and 27% to convictions, according to the annual crime report released by the federal home ministry.
Activists say the government statistics understate the number of rapes as it is still considered a taboo by conservative Indians to report sexual violence.
A New Dawn
Minutes before the hanging, Nirbhaya's mother Asha Devi on said, “Today's dawn will be a new dawn for the daughters of India."
Justice has finally been done and women will definitely feel safer now, she said after the hanging.
Talking to reporters at her home in Dwarka, she said justice was delayed but not denied, and added they would continue their fight for justice for India's daughters.
"We will request the Supreme Court to issue guidelines so that no one can adopt delaying tactics in such cases in future," she said, referring to the execution of death warrants being deferred thrice by a court on various grounds.
She said women will definitely feel safer after this execution and it will also make parents teach boys to behave with women. "After a long agonising wait, my daughter has got justice," she said.
"After the Supreme Court hearing last night, I came home and hugged a portrait of my daughter and told her - 'beti nyay dila diya tumko'," Asha Devi said, adding, "March 20 should be celebrated as Nirbhaya Nyay Diwas (day of justice). This day will be written in history books."
"Our faith in Constitution or judicial system was getting shaken, but that trust has been restored. This hanging will send a stern warning to criminals to dare not commit such acts," Asha Devi said.
"My daughter will now rest in peace," said the emotionally overwhelmed mother, appealing to all mothers to report sexual assault cases in family and society to support the daughters.
Nirbhaya's father Badrinath Singh said he and his wife haven't slept a wink, awaiting justice.
"We haven't slept the whole night, running from high court to Supreme Court late night. But, finally, the moment has arrived. Our village in Ballia will now play Holi," he told PTI outside their home.
"Our wait for justice was painful and agonising. We appeal for observing this day as Nirbhaya Nyay Diwas ," he said.
Women gathered outside the Dwarka home of Nirbhaya's parents did a countdown as the time of the execution of the four convicts neared.
This is the first time that four men have been hanged together in Tihar Jail, South Asia's largest prison complex that houses more than 16,000 inmates. The executions were carried out after the convicts exhausted every possible legal avenue to escape the gallows. Their desperate attempts only postponed the inevitable by less than two months after the first date of execution was set for January 22.
"Today, justice has been done after seven years," the victim's mother told reporters outside the prison. "I salute Indian judiciary and thank god for hearing our prayers...my daughter's soul can now rest in peace."
A Timeline of the Case
Pre-Dawn Supreme Court Hearing Brings Down Final Curtain
In an unprecedented pre-dawn hearing, hours before the hangings, the Supreme Court Friday midnight opened its door to dismiss Pawan Gupta’s last plea challenging the rejection of his second mercy petition by the President.
The top court dismissed Gupta's plea saying no ground was made out to warrant a judicial review of the President's decision to reject his mercy plea.
It also refused to pass any direction allowing Gupta and Akshay Singh to meet their family members just before they are sent to gallows.
A bench of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna took up the matter at 2.30 am and heard at length Pawan's lawyer A P Singh and Shams Khwaja, who contended that Gupta was juvenile at the time of the commission of offence.
"We do not find any ground to challenge the rejection of mercy petition by the President," the bench said, adding that "when the power vests with the highest authority, it is assumed that their was proper application of mind".
With the rejection of this plea, at 3.15 am, the legal hurdles were cleared for the hangings.