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Rediff.com  » News » SC sends convicts in Dec 16 gang rape case to gallows

SC sends convicts in Dec 16 gang rape case to gallows

Last updated on: May 05, 2017 22:32 IST

The verdict said that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating ones and hence, the convicts did not deserve any leniency.

IMAGE: Parents of December 16, 2012 gang rape victim light candles at a memorial at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: PTI Photo

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death penalty to four convicts in the sensational December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman, saying the ‘brutal, barbaric and diabolic nature’ of the crime could create ‘tsunami of shock’ to destroy a civilised society.

The paramedic student was gang raped on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a moving bus in South Delhi by a gang of six persons and severely assaulted before being thrown out naked. She succumbed to her injuries on December 29 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

Observing that the accused had found her as ‘an object for enjoyment’ and ‘ravish her as they liked, treat her as they felt’ to get ‘gross sadistic and beastly instinctual pleasure’, the court said such acts were ‘bound to shock the collective conscience’.

The ‘loathsome bestiality of passion ruled the mindset of the appellants (convicts) to commit a crime which can summon with immediacy ‘tsunami’ of shock in the mind of the collective and destroy the civilised marrows of the milieu in entirety’, it said.

“When we cautiously, consciously and anxiously weigh the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating factors, we are compelled to arrive at the singular conclusion that the aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances now brought on record.

“Therefore, we conclude and hold that the high court has correctly confirmed the death penalty and we see no reason to differ with the same,” a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.

While Justice Misra wrote the judgment for himself and Justice Ashok Bhushan, the lone woman judge in the apex court, Justice R Banumathi wrote a separate and concurring verdict in which she said if at all there is a case warranting death sentence, it is the December 16, 2012 gang-rape-cum-murder case which ‘shocked the collective conscience of the society’.

People in the packed courtroom, which resembled a scene straight from a Bollywood flick, resorted to impromptu clapping for the judges, the moment Justice Misra sealed the fate of Mukesh, 29, Pawan, 22, Vinay Sharma, 23, and Akshay Kumar Singh, 31, the perpetrators of the victim.

One of the accused, Ram Singh, had allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail, while a convicted juvenile, who was termed as the most brutal among the six, has come out of the reformation home after serving a three-year term.

Tears rolled down the cheeks of the victim's mother, a pensive Asha Devi, and her father Badri Singh, who were present in the courtroom, but they heaved a sigh of relief as Justice Misra concluded reading the operative parts of his 315-page judgment. Devi said she was happy that justice has finally been done.

Separately, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hailed the judgment and favoured the existence of death penalty in the statute, saying he was satisfied that it was invoked in the rarest of rare instance like the December 16 gang rape case, over which there was a public outcry.

He dubbed the verdict as a ‘victory of the rule of law’.

Referring to each and every gory detail of the gruesome incident that had sparked nationwide protests, the bench said, “It is apt to state here that in the said case, stress was laid on certain aspects, namely, the manner of commission of the murder, the motive for commission of the murder, anti-social or socially abhorrent nature of the crime, magnitude of the crime and personality of the victim of murder.”

Justice Misra, in his judgment, said the instant case revealed ‘brutal, barbaric and diabolic nature of the crime’ which is ‘evincible from the acts committed by accused’.

The verdict dealt with aspects of the incident like assault on the male friend of the victim with an iron rod, tearing off his clothes, assaulting him and the woman with ‘hands, kicks and iron rods’.

‘...attacking the deceased by forcibly disrobing her and committing violent sexual assault by all the appellants; their brutish behaviour in having anal sex with the deceased and forcing her to perform oral sex; injuries on the body of the deceased by way of bite marks (10 in number); and insertion of rod in her private parts that, inter alia, caused perforation of her intestine which caused sepsis and, ultimately, led to her death...’ it said.

The bench said the medical records had demonstrated that the entire intestine of the victim was ‘perforated and splayed open due to the repeated insertion of the rod and hands and the appellants had pulled out the internal organs of the prosecutrix in the most savage and inhumane manner that caused grave injuries which ultimately annihilated her life’.

The court also referred to bite marks on the victim’s body parts, including private ones and said ‘these acts itself demonstrate the mental perversion and inconceivable brutality as caused by the appellants’.

“As further proven, they threw the informant and the deceased victim on the road in a cold winter night. After throwing the informant and the deceased victim, the convicts tried to run the bus over them so that there would be no evidence against them.

“They made all possible efforts in destroying the evidence by, inter alia, washing the bus and burning the clothes of the deceased and after performing the gruesome act, they divided the loot among themselves,” the bench said.

It said the incident is corroborated by medical evidence, oral testimony and the dying declarations of the victim.

“It is absolutely obvious that the accused had found an object for enjoyment in her and, as is evident, they were obsessed with the singular purpose sans any feeling to ravish her as they liked, treat her as they felt and, if we allow ourselves to say, the gross sadistic and beastly instinctual pleasures came to the forefront when they, after ravishing her, thought it to be just a matter of routine to throw her along with her friend out of the bus and crush them.

“The casual manner with which she was treated and the devilish manner in which they played with her identity and dignity is humanly inconceivable,” it said.

It sounded like a story from a ‘different world where humanity has been treated with irreverence’, it said adding ‘the appetite for sex, the hunger for violence, the position of the empowered and the attitude of perversity, to say the least, are bound to shock the collective conscience which knows not what to do’.

Justice Misra then termed the offence as a manifestation of ‘wanton lust’ and said that the ‘loathsome bestiality of passion ruled the mindset of the appellants to commit a crime which can summon with immediacy ‘tsunami’ of shock in the mind of the collective and destroy the civilised marrows of the milieu in entirety’.

Justice Misra considered personal affidavits of convicts seeking mercy on grounds of various mitigating circumstances like their poor background, aged parents, marital status and their young kids etc.

The verdict said that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating ones and hence, the convicts did not deserve any leniency.

Justice R Banumathi, in her separate verdict running into 114-pages, said the rising crimes against the woman is an ‘area of concern’ as ‘over the past few decades, legal advancements and policy reforms have done much to protect women from all sources of violence and also to sensitise the public on the issue of protection of women and gender justice. Still, the crimes against women are on the increase’.

She said, “Right from childhood years’ children ought to be sensitised to respect women. A child should be taught to respect women in the society in the same way as he is taught to respect men. Gender equality should be made a part of the school curriculum.”

“The school teachers and parents should be trained, not only to conduct regular personality building and skill enhancing exercise, but also to keep a watch on the actual behavioural pattern of the children so as to make them gender sensitised,” Justice Banumathi said.

Justice Misra, in the verdict, dealt in detail with all crucial evidence and arguments to rubbish them.

Dealing with the testimony of the male friend of the victim, the court said his evidence was ‘unimpeachable and it deserves to be relied upon’.

It also trashed the separate pleas of convicts that they were not in the bus and said ‘the accused along with the juvenile in conflict with law were present in the bus when the prosecutrix and her friend got into the bus’.

Lending credence to CCTV footage, the bench said there was no reason to disregard the video which was duly proved establishing the movement of the bus at the relevant time.

“The arrest of the accused persons from various places at different times has been clearly proven by the prosecution,” it said, adding ‘the personal search, recoveries and the disclosure leading to recovery are in consonance with law and the assail of the same on the counts of custodial confession made under torture and other pleas are highly specious pleas and they do not remotely create a dent in the said aspects’.

It rejected the contention that recoveries manipulated by police saying the plea ‘deserved to be thrown overboard does not merit acceptance’.

The fervent plea of the accused to discredit the veracity of three dying declarations of the victim was also trashed by the bench which said that they ‘do withstand close scrutiny and they are consistent with each other’.

“The stand that the deceased could not have given any dying declaration because of her health condition, has to be repelled because the witnesses who have stated about the dying declarations have stood embedded to their version and nothing has been brought on record to discredit the same. That apart, the dying declaration by gestures has been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” it said.

The bench also rejected the plea that the accused were implicated by the male friend and said there was no justification in any manner to think that victim and her male friend would falsely implicate them.

The dying declarations of the victim are corroborated with the oral and documentary evidence and ‘also enormously from the medical evidence’.

Appreciating the modern and scientific methods like DNA profiling, the bench said it has proved ‘to the hilt the presence of accused in the bus and their involvement in the crime. The submission that certain samples were later taken from the accused and planted on the deceased to prove the DNA aspect is noted only to be rejected because it has no legs to stand upon’.

It rejected the plea that transfusion of blood during the victim’s treatment had ‘potentiality to give rise to two categories of DNA or two DNAs is farthest from truth and there is no evidence on that score. On the contrary, the evidence in exclusivity points to the matching of the DNA of the deceased with that of the accused on many aspects’.

Dealing with bite marks on the body of the victim, the bench said the scientific evidence, relating to odontology, showed that the accused were culprits.

“It is extremely impossible to accept the submission that it has been a manipulation by the investigating agency to rope in the accused persons," it said adding the evidence brought on record as regards criminal conspiracy stands established.

“In view of the summation, the inevitable conclusion is that the prosecution has proved the charges levelled against the appellants beyond reasonable doubt,” the bench concluded while rejecting four appeals of the convicts in the case.

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