Gang rape victim's family demand the death penalty
The parents and friends of the 23-year-old student who was gang raped on a Delhi bus called for the death penalty for the four men convicted of her murder yesterday.
The men were found guilty of 12 charges including the kidnapping, rape, robbery and murder of the physiotherapy student in a frenzied attack after she and her friend boarded a bus on their way home from the cinema on December 16 last year.
Her ordeal caused revulsion throughout India and led to protests over the rising number of rapes and sexual assaults. The victim was mutilated with an iron rod and then thrown from the bus and left for dead.
She suffered extensive abdominal injuries and died 13 days later in a specialist hospital in Singapore.
Judge Yogesh Khanna said Mukesh Singh (26), Vinay Sharma (20), Akshay Thakur (28) and Pawan Gupta (19) had murdered a "helpless victim".
The four men are due to be sentenced today, either to death or life imprisonment.
The fifth accused, Mukesh's brother Ram Singh, was found hanged in his prison cell earlier this year and the sixth member of the gang, a juvenile, was sentenced to three years in a reform home last month. The verdict provoked violent protests outside the court by demonstrators demanding the death penalty.
The victim's parents and the friend who was with her when she was attacked said they remained haunted by the incident. Her father said his family had hoped all of those responsible for his daughter's torture and killing would be hanged, but that the lighter sentence given to the juvenile meant they would never find peace.
"If all five were hanged it would be the end but it won't be like that because we will still have to strive for justice after her death," he said on the eve of the verdict.
The victim's friend echoed her family's demand for the death penalty and spoke of his feelings of guilt that he could not save her. "They wanted us to die. Now, I want them to die and she also wanted them to die . . . she wanted them to be set on fire," he said. He also spoke about their relationship and the plans they had made for the future when she was fighting to survive in hospital.
"I would ask her about the new clothes she bought with me and make plans about things we would do when she recovered. Those plans died with her. She was cool, funny, mischievous, had a great presence of mind.
"She could make anyone smile and maybe that is the reason why every Indian was angry and sad when she died," he said, adding that, for him, the "guilt will always remain".
The court had earlier heard how the men who killed her had been drinking heavily in the Ravidass Camp slum in South Delhi when they decided they would go out in their bus and "pick up a female passenger to have sex with and make merry".
Police said the gang leader, Ram Singh (32), had told them they had also intended to kill their victim so that their crimes would "not come to light".
Lawyers for the men confirmed they would appeal against the verdict, saying they had been falsely convicted under public and government pressure.
Reaction to the verdict was uniform: "While we applaud this verdict and the relative speed with which the trial was conducted, we mourn the fact that there are so many survivors out there who are neither getting any kind of media attention, nor are they getting any kind of judicial attention," said Rebecca Mammen John, a Supreme Court lawyer.
"As a result, their cases are languishing in courts with no end in sight."
Police think that only four out of 10 rapes are reported in India, largely because of the deep-rooted conservatism of society, where many victims are scared to come forward for fear of being "shamed" by their family and communities.
Those who do report a rape face numerous challenges in getting attackers put behind bars – dealing with apathetic police, unsympathetic medical examinations and no counselling, shoddy police investigations and weak prosecutions.
One of the biggest obstacles to winning justice for rape victims is the length of the trials. An average case can take a court five to 10 years to reach judgment.
India has far too few courts, judges and prosecutors for its 1.2 billion people. There are more than 23,000 rape cases alone pending before the high courts, according to the law ministry. (© Daily Telegraph, London)