A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court including Justices Dipak Misra, R Bhanumati and Ashok Bhushan have unanimously upheld the order of the Delhi High Court awarding death penalty to the four convicts in the horrific Nirbhaya gangrape case.
The decision came on the appeals of the four convicts -- Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh -- against the conviction and death penalty awarded to them by the High Court on March 13, 2014.
It's a victory for my family,I am very happy with the judgement: #Nirbhaya's father to ANI— ANI (@ANI) May 5, 2017
Holding the crime as the rarest of rare, the top court observed that the devilish manner in which Nirbhaya was treated appeared to be from a story from a different world 'humanly inconceivable'.
"Taking the serious injuries, the severe nature of offence committed by the convicts, we are upholding the sentence," Justice Misra said, delivering the order, adding that the dying declaration of Nirbhaya was reliable as it had been corroborated by medical and other evidences.
The decision comes four and a half years after the horrendous December 16, 2012 incident that shook the nation's conscience. On December 16, 2012, Nirbhaya, the 23-year-old paramedic, was raped and brutalised with an iron rod on a moving bus in Delhi. She and her male friend were then thrown out of the bus. Nirbhaya lost her battle for life in a Singapore hospital on December 29.
Reports say that when the order was delivered, the jam-packed courtroom broke into applause upon hearing that the court was upholding the death penalty awarded to the convicts.
The court held that there was no reason to disbelieve the testimony of Nirbhaya and to believe that the she or the wotness would falsely implicate convicts.
"DNA, fingerprint and other scientific evidence reliable," the Supreme Court said in its order, adding that the convicts "were obsessed with singular purpose of ravishing the victim and made all possible attempts to destroy evidence."
"Aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances in the case," the top court said, adding that the offence created a "tsunami of shock".
"The gruesome offences were committed with highest viciousness. Human lust was allowed to take such a demonic form. The accused may not be hardened criminals; but the cruel manner in which the gang-rape was committed in the moving bus; iron rods were inserted in the private parts of the victim; and the coldness with which both the victims were thrown naked in cold wintery night of December, shocks the collective conscience of the society. The present case clearly comes within the category of ‘rarest of rare case’ where the question of any other punishment is ‘unquestionably foreclosed’. If at all there is a case warranting award of death sentence, it is the present case. If the dreadfulness displayed by the accused in committing the gang-rape, 427 unnatural sex, insertion of iron rod in the private parts of the victim does not fall in the ‘rarest of rare category’, then one may wonder what else would fall in that category," the bench said.
The apex court had on March 27 reserved its verdict in the matter.
In a separate concurring judgment, Justice Bhanumati said that there should be systematic education of children of to ensure how they will give respect to women.
The 23-year-old paramedic was brutally assaulted and raped by six persons in a moving bus in south Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend on the night of December 16, 2012. She had died in a Singapore hospital on December 29 that year.
While Delhi Police had sought capital punishment for the convicts, the defence counsel had said they deserved leniency considering their poor family background and young age.
Reacting to the Supreme Court's judgment, the convicts' lawyer termed it a travesty of justice. "You can't hand death penalty to send a message in society," said AP Singh, adding that the judgment amounted to be a grave deprivation of human rights.
"Justice not done. We will file a review petition after reading the order," SIngh further said.
The police had told the bench that the horrific crime committed by these men warranted death penalty and the test of being a "rarest of rare" case was satisfied in this matter and the court should also consider the effect of crime committed by them on the victim and the society at large.
During the hearing, advocates A P Singh and M L Sharma, representing the four convicts, had said they should be given a chance to reform and considering the mitigating factors, the court should not award them death penalty. They also raised questions about the evidence collected by the police in the matter.
On February 3, the apex court bench had prima facie agreed with the contention that the provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), relating to sentencing of convicts, has not been followed in letter and spirit by the trial court.
The trial court had awarded death penalty to the four convicts. Prime accused Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide in his cell in Tihar jail in March 2013 and proceedings against him were abated.
The high court, in its verdict, had observed that their offence fell in the rarest of the rare category and had upheld the death sentence awarded to them by the trial court.
(With PTI inputs)