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6 May 2017

DEATH SENTENCES UPHELD IN DECEMBER 16 RAPE CASE ..... Death knell sounds: Clap, clap, clap

One of the milestone protests in Delhi in December 2012 against the gang-rape
R. Balaji,TT, New Delhi, May 5: Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.... A round of applause is uncommon at funerals - and in courtrooms.But Court Hall No. 2 in the Supreme Court resonated with the universal sound of celebration today as the three-judge bench pronounced a verdict that was widely expected.
The four surviving convicts who had fatally brutalised a paramedical student on a bus on December 16, 2012, in New Delhi should hang, the court ruled, upholding the decisions of lower courts and fortuitously fulfilling the last wish of the girl who was 23 then.
The convicts - Pawan Gupta (24), Vinay Sharma (25), Akshay Thakur (32) and Mukesh Singh (36) - were in Tihar jail when the verdict was pronounced. One accused had committed suicide inside Tihar while a juvenile was released after spending a three-year sentence in a remand home.
Most of those who applauded in the court were lawyers, not strangers to the ways of the courts where any such display is considered taboo.
Justice Dipak Misra, heading a three-judge bench, was reading out the operative portion upholding the death penalty when the sound of applause rippled across the court hall.
The judgment retold the indescribable cruelty meted out to the girl, and words such as "devilish", "demonic", "sadistic", "savage" and "tsunami of shock" were uttered.
"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. It is manifest that the wanton lust, the servility to absolutely unchained carnal desire and slavery to the loathsome bestiality of passion ruled the mindset of the appellants to commit a crime which can summon with immediacy a tsunami of shock in the mind of the collective and destroy the civilised marrows of the milieu in entirety," said the bench of Justices Misra, R. Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan.
"It is absolutely obvious that the accused persons 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," Justice Misra, who will take over as the next Chief Justice of India on August 28 this year, wrote in the judgment.
"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 sounds like a story from a different world where humanity has been treated with irreverence."
When the applause broke out, Justice Misra gestured with his left hand, signalling the lawyers to stop, which was complied with immediately.
Few could recall any such outpouring in the highest court of the land in recent memory.
There would be criticism later for what some felt was conduct ill-suited to the sombre occasion and courtroom decorum, but many felt that the hall was for a brief moment reflecting the outrage that had swept the country in the winter of 2012.
Five years ago, the brutality had compelled thousands to pour out into the streets in the capital and several other cities, unleashing possibly the largest unorganised expression of anger the country had ever seen. The uproar had eventually forced the government to change the law that dealt with violence against women.
Former additional solicitor-general Sidharth Luthra, who appeared for the prosecution, told The Telegraph that such incidents should not happen in courts. "These are judicial matters where judgments are delivered on the basis of evidence. Clapping is unacceptable in court proceedings," Luthra said
The girl's mother was also in court, wiping tears while the operative part was read out. Her father tried to console her. Later in the day, at a media conference, the parents allowed themselves a smile, possibly a cathartic one.
"We went through hell but did not lose hope.... I thank each and every person of this country who supported us and expressed solidarity with us. They (the convicts) were beasts and deserve the punishment," the mother said.
On the legal dashboard, the case raced through the judicial pyramid in less than five years. Normally, such a trial can take over 20 years - five to seven years in the sessions court, another seven to eight years in the high court and then seven to eight years in the Supreme Court.
The convicts still have the options to file a review petition and a curative petition, both of which have success rates of less than 0.1 per cent. If the pleas are rejected, they can approach the President with a mercy petition.
In the unanimous 429-page verdict, the bench concluded that the brutality deserved nothing less than the capital punishment as it fell under "rarest of the rare crime".
The court rejected the convicts' plea to commute their death sentences to life terms, saying there were several "aggravating factors" that "outweigh" the "mitigating" elements. That the four had no prior criminal record, had aged parents and families to look after and hailed from poor backgrounds were cited by the defence as the mitigating factors.
Writing a separate but concurring judgment, Justice Banumathi called for an "attitudinal change" and said "a child should be taught to respect women in the society in the same way as he is taught to respect men".

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