New Delhi: A fast-track court in Delhi has convicted four men - Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh - for the December 16, 2012 brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a private bus in the national capital. The arguments on the sentencing of the four convicts will take place on Wednesday and the maximum punishment they face is death.
Six men were arrested for the heinous crime but one of the accused, Ram Singh, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in Tihar Jail and so the case against him was dropped while one was a minor who was tried by the Juvenile Justice Board.
The minor was convicted and sent to three years in a correctional facility, the maximum term possible under the juvenile justice board.
The court has held Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh guilty of 12 offences including gangrape, unnatural offence, murder, dacoity, conspiracy, kidnapping and destruction of evidence in the 240-page order. The court convicted the four by relying heavily on the braveheart's dying declaration and forensic evidence.
Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna, presiding the special fast track court, also convicted them for kidnapping or abducting with intent to secretly and wrongfully confining a person, abducting to subject a person to grievous hurt and slavery, abducting woman to cause her defilement, voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery and dishonestly receiving property stolen in the commission of a dacoity of the IPC. The judge in his order said that the intention of the convicts was not just to rape but also kill the girl.
As soon as the verdict was delivered, Pawan broke down while Vinay was in a state of shock. Mukesh was heard saying "that they would have to face the consequences for what they have done". The fourth convict Akshay seemed unaffected.
While pronouncing the verdict, the judge said, even though the proceedings against accused Ram Singh (34), who was found dead in his prison cell after he committed suicide on March 11, were abated, "he is also convicted under same sections (gangrape, murder and other offences)".
The court relied on the dying declaration of the victim, forensic evidence, including finger prints, dental models, DNA samples and other medical reports of the convicts, electronic evidence and the statements given by them to the police after their arrests. The judge also said that the presence of the convicts in the bus in which the crime was committed has been established through the location of their mobile networks.
Before pronouncing the over 230-page judgement, the judge thanked the Delhi Police, the prosecution team and the defence counsel for bringing the case to its conclusion.
The defence lawyer said they will challenge the order in a higher court. "We will challenge the decision in the higher court," defence lawyer AP Singh said.
He claimed that the verdict is politically motivated. "This verdict is politically motivated for the interest of the people. We will have to go to High Court. This is not a fair trial," Singh said.
One of the convict, Mukesh's lawyer said he should not be given strict punishment. "We will appeal to court that Mukesh has come to court in a fair manner and cooperated so the court should consider his case," his lawyer VK Anand said.
The braveheart's family is satisfied with the verdict and is now looking forward to the sentencing. The family is demanding death for the four convicts.
Reacting to the verdict, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said, "The conviction was expected. What is awaited is the quantum of punishment. The severest punishment should be given."
The brutal gangrape and assault in the heart of Delhi jolted the citizenry who came out in large numbers in different cities especially the national capital to protest against the extremely macabre crime. The protests continued for days even as the braveheart battled for life in a Delhi hospital where she also gave statements to the magistrate which later proved very crucial during the trial.
The tragic incident took place on the evening of December 16, 2012 when the paramedical student along with her male friend was lured into the bus by six men who promised to take them to their destination.
Once the duo was inside the bus, the six started to misbehave with the girl. As the girl and her friend protested, the gang brutally assaulted the boy and dragged the girl to the back of the bus and brutalised her. They not only raped her repeatedly but also beat her up brutally and thrust an iron rod inside her which resulted in grievous injuries.
After committing the heinous crime, the girl and her friend were thrown out of the bus where the police found them in critical condition. The girl was admitted to Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital where the doctors were shocked to see her injuries. They said that they had never seen the kind of injuries in a case of sexual assault that the girl had suffered.
Even as protests continued day and night in the biting cold in Delhi, crass comments by some politicians vitiated the environment. Massive protests continued for severakl days before the government finally woke up to the demand for stronger laws to deal with sexual crimes. Several people called for public hearing, punishment and even chemical castration for the rapists.
While all these events were played out on the streets, the Delhi braveheart was slowly sinking. The government finally decided to shift her to the Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital for specialised treatment. But the move was of not much help and the braveheart died on December 29.
According to the prosecution the five major accused - Ram Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta, Mukesh - along with the juvenile, who was tried by the Juvenile Justice Board, had allegedly gangraped the 23-year-old girl on a moving bus after luring her and her 28-year-old male friend.
During the trial, Ram Singh was found dead in Tihar Jail on March 11 and court proceedings against him stand abated. The minor, who was 17-and-half years old at the time of the incident and turned 18 during the trial, was held guilty by the Juvenile Justice Board and sent to three years in a correctional home, the maximum term permissible under the Juvenile Justice Act.
His sentence will include the period he has already spent in the remand home. He will spend just 2 years and 3 months at the correctional facility as he was been in a in remand for nine months.
The gangrape victim's family, dissatisfied with the sentence, has said it will go to higher courts to demand greater punishment. "I am not satisfied with the sentencing. I have seen my sister die. She was brutalised by these men and she died a thousand times everyday. My entire family has been devastated. I cannot accept this sentencing," said the braveheart's brother.
"I will appeal in the higher courts. I will not accept this judgement. This sentencing is not enough. My mother cried after the verdict," he added.
"If this was the only sentence that was to be given, they could have given it earlier. We are not satisfied with it," said the braveheart's mother.
"Before leaving she had said that she'll be back in two hours. I am still waiting for that moment. I still remember my child's face in Safdarjung hospital, how she laid lifeless there," the mother of the braveheart said.
Today the family says its first priority is to ensure justice for their daughter. "We have faith in the judiciary. The accused should be hanged," the braveheart's father demanded. The Delhi braveheart's family now thanks the protestors who took to the streets for the courage to carry on their fight. "When people in the country stood by us, we became hopeful," the father said.
(With additional information from PTI)