Friday 24 November 2017

Indian prosecutors seek death for four guilty in Delhi gang rape case

ALL four men convicted of killing a 23-year old trainee physiotherapist they had raped on a New Delhi bus should face the death penalty, public prosecutor Dayan Krishna told a court today.

The court earlier found the four men - bus cleaner Akshay Kumar Singh, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, and unemployed Mukesh Singh - guilty of the December rape and "cold-blooded" murder of the woman, in a case that led to a nationwide public uproar about the safety of women.

Judge Yogesh Khanna started hearing arguments from the prosecution and defence in a sentencing hearing on Wednesday. He will deliver the sentence on Friday.

The judge, who found the four guilty of "cold-blooded" murder on Tuesday, was hearing arguments from the prosecution and defence on sentencing. The minimum sentence the men could receive is life in prison.

In his 240-page judgment, Khanna found bus cleaner Akshay Kumar Singh, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, and unemployed Mukesh Singh guilty of acting with premeditation when they abducted and raped the young woman on Dec. 16.

The woman may not be named for legal reasons.

All four of the men denied the charges.

Three of the men said they were never on the bus, and another said he was driving the bus and knew nothing of the crime. The prosecution said DNA evidence and bite marks on the woman's body placed the men at the scene.

Defence lawyer A.P. Singh, who represents Sharma and Kumar Singh, said in pleading for leniency he would argue that his clients were both first-time offenders. Sharma has a wife and child and an ailing mother, he will also argue.

Sadashiv Gupta, the defence lawyer for Gupta, said there was only circumstantial evidence tying his 19-year-old client to the crime. He too, did not have a criminal record, the lawyer said.

Amid the public clamour outside the court for the four men to be hanged for a crime that shook India, some human rights groups and lawyers argue that putting the men in prison for the rest of their lives is a harsher punishment.

The case has resonated with thousands of urban Indians who took to the streets in fury after the attack. The victim became a symbol of the daily dangers women face in a country where a rape is reported on average every 21 minutes and acid attacks and incidents of molestation are common.

If the judge does give the death penalty, India's high court will have to confirm the sentences.

Reuters

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