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Delhi Court Hands Down Death Penalty to Four in Gang Rape Case

Photographer: Altaf Qadri/AP Photo

Protesters gather outside court in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 11, 2013. Close

Protesters gather outside court in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 11, 2013.

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Photographer: Altaf Qadri/AP Photo

Protesters gather outside court in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 11, 2013.

An Indian judge sentenced four men to death for the fatal gang rape of a student aboard a moving bus in New Delhi in an attack that triggered global outrage.

The announcement, which came three days after the specially convened fast-track court in the nation’s capital found the defendants guilty of murder, rape and kidnapping, was met with a roar of cheers inside and outside the courtroom. The victim’s parents said justice has been done.

Death sentences are restricted for crimes considered the “rarest of the rare” in India and can be delayed for years by appeals all the way up to the Supreme Court or a clemency petition to the president. India has only executed three people in the last nine years, two Islamic militants and a man who was convicted of raping and murdering a 14-year-old even as more than 450 are on death row.

“This case definitely falls in the rarest of rare categories and warrants the exemplary punishment of death,” Judge Yogesh Khanna said as one of the defendants burst out in tears as the sentence was announced yesterday. The attack “shocked the collective conscience of India,” he said.

About 200 protesters, gathered outside the court chanting “hang them, hang them, hang them” after the sentence was handed down. Some of them were carrying placards saying “She Won” and “Hang all rapists,” while an artist painted a picture of the four men being led down to the gallows.

No Right

“They are demons, they have no right to be part of this society,” said Alam, who uses only one name.

The attack on the medical student in December spurred weeks of nationwide protests, triggered an unprecedented debate about sexual violence in the world’s largest democracy and prompted the government to impose stricter punishments. Tougher laws have failed to deter criminals even as a photographer at a magazine in Mumbai and a female police constable in the eastern state of Jharkhand were gang raped last month.

All the defendants were teary eyed as they entered the cramped court room. Vinay Sharma, a former gym assistant, broke down and wailed when the sentence was announced.

With crimes against women on the rise, the courts cannot turn a “blind eye toward such gruesome crime,” Judge Khanna told the defendants. When he pronounced his order, one of the defense lawyers A.P. Singh shouted “this is not the victory of truth. It is the defeat of justice.”

Deliberate Act

The judge declared that the men had deliberately tried to kill the 23-year-old by repeatedly violating her with an iron rod and attempting to run her over when they threw her naked and bleeding out of a bus with her male friend.

The sentence is likely to satisfy some lawmakers and protesters who took to the streets in the aftermath of the attack saying executions were necessary to put an end to rapes.

A day after the guilty verdict, Public Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan said all the men should be given the death penalty because it will send out a message that such crime won’t be tolerated. The attack met “the rarest of rare” criteria because it shocked the conscience of the nation, he said.

“This is an extreme case of depravity,” Krishnan said. “The common man will lose faith in the judiciary if the harshest punishment is not given.”

Lawyers for the convicted men argued in court that sentencing them to hang won’t reduce crime and would simply be an act of vengeance.

Swift Justice

Breaking with precedent, the trial was held on a daily basis once it began eight months ago, bowing to demands for swift justice. In India, the average length of a criminal case is 15 years, according to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The physiotherapy student, whose name can’t be published under laws protecting the identity of rape victims, was returning home from the cinema with a male friend when six drunken men, including a teenager, attacked them on a bus and then took turns to rape her.

After the brutal two-hour assault, the woman and her companion were dumped beside a road near New Delhi’s airport. The couple was then ignored by passersby, while police argued over where to take them as they lay bleeding on the street, according to the woman’s friend. She died two weeks later from her injuries.

The victim’s family criticized the verdict of an Indian juvenile court last month after it sentenced the teenager, who was under the age of 18 at the time of the attack, to three years in a reform home for his role in the assault and murder. That is the maximum sentence that can be given to a juvenile under Indian law.

A sixth defendant and the alleged ring leader committed suicide in March in his cell, according to prison authorities. His family and lawyer said he was murdered and had previously been attacked by other inmates.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew MacAskill in New Delhi at amacaskill@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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