The Supreme Court on Saturday stayed the death penalty till March 31 of two of the four convicts — Mukesh and Pawan — in the Delhi gang-rape case.
Mukesh and Pawan, two of the four men convicted in the case, had approached the Supreme Court after the Delhi high court on Thursday upheld the death sentence for all four men convicted by a trial court.
Delhi high court had on Thursday confirmed the death penalty awarded to the four men convicted for the gang rape and murder of Nirbhaya, calling their crime “spine-chilling” and “in a sense unparalleled in the history of criminal jurisprudence”,
A division bench of Justice Reva Khetrapal and Justice Pratibha Rani said punishment needs to act as a deterrent to society and upheld the death sentences in the December 16, 2012 case. It found the convict’s offence “extremely fiendish” which was “not worthy of human condonation”.
The bench put the case firmly in the ‘rarest of rare’ category, saying “exemplary punishment is, therefore, the need of the hour, for, if this is not the rarest of rare case, there is likely to be none.” The punishment came after HC held the four men guilty of the offences of gang rape and murder.
While rejecting the appeals by the convicts against the trial court’s verdict, the high court pointed out that the offences were “completely revolting” and committed in a “demoniac, barbaric and nefarious manner”. The HC verdict confirms the death penalty for the four convicts — Mukesh, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma. A fifth convict, Ram Singh, allegedly ended his life as an undertrial.
The HC had little doubt that the offence deserved capital punishment, given the extreme depravity of the crime. It said the barbarity with which the victim’s internal organs were “pulled out with bare hands, coupled with the twisting of iron rods through every orifice in her body, exhibits outlandish mental perversion not worthy of human condonation.”
Brushing aside the plea for mercy made by the convicts, the court noted: “To expect society to be a sanguine spectator to this kind of depraved behavior of the outlandish variety and to continue to extend its protective arm to the convicts would be both unnatural and ludicrous.” It added that the act itself showed “exceptional licentiousness and perversion of a superlative degree”.
The bench said that pain of an unparalleled order was inflicted also upon the victim’s family members and her companion, who were “compelled to watch her die many deaths before being certified dead”. It added that what made the crime worse was that “debauchery, avarice, profligacy and viciousness appear to be the only impelling forces behind the commission of the crime.”
In its verdict, HC cited several aggravating factors that compelled it to maintain the death sentence awarded to the men. It noted that the crime was not committed to alleviate poverty “or the pangs of hunger and starvation”. It pointed out except for the young age of the convicts and dependence of their family on them, there is no other mitigating circumstance while there are many aggravating circumstances.
“Undoubtedly, they did not belong to the cream of society, but they were neither beggars nor vagabonds, nor even ruffians for whom crime is a means of self-preservation and is in fact reflective of the social injustice meted out to them,” the court observed. It found that the convicts were “usefully and gainfully employed and were not expected to stoop so low in their lust for money and in order to satiate their egregious sexual appetite.”
Relying on considerable medical and scientific evidence cited by SPP Dayan Krishnan, the court said it depicted “satanic beastliness” in the convicts, who did not stop at torture and even attempted to run them over with the bus so as to eliminate evidence and witnesses.
“Their conscience un-pricked by the gruesome crime and the infernal torture inflicted by them, they coolly proceeded to divide the looted articles amongst themselves, to wash the bus which was stained with the blood of the victims,” the judges noted, commenting on the lack of remorse by the convicts that convinced the court they deserve to hang.
The court said its harsh punishment will act as a deterrent and send a “strong message to the perpetrators of grotesque and ghastly crimes against women that such crimes shall not be countenanced.”
In its verdict, HC dealt in detail with the nature and manner of the offence and subsequent trauma suffered by the 23-year-old paramedic. She was gang-raped and brutally sexually assaulted by six men, including a juvenile, in a moving bus. The accused then threw her and her male companion out of the vehicle, stripped of clothing, and left them to die by the roadside on a cold December night.
The woman died of grave intestinal injuries on December 29, 2012, at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital, where she was airlifted for specialized treatment.