Four Delhi bus rape accused sentenced to be hanged

Four of the six people involved in the heinous gang-rape in New Delhi last December were yesterday sentenced to death by a fast-track trial court.

"Death to all," additional sessions judge Yogesh Khanna pronounced in a packed courtroom at around 2.30 pm today.

The victim of the rape – a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern – subsequently died of vicious injuries inflicted by the rapists, prompting the judge to hand out the death sentence, which in India is applied to 'rarest of rare' cases.

"Besides discussing other offences, I straightaway come to section 302 (murder) of IPC (Indian Penal Code). This falls under 'inhuman nature' of the convicts, and the gravity of the offence they committed cannot be tolerated. Death sentence is given to all the four convicts," judge Khanna said.

"In these times when crime against women is on the rise, courts cannot turn a blind eye towards such a barbaric and gruesome crime. There cannot be any tolerance. This crime in every way falls within the rarest of rare category warranting a death sentence," Khanna pronounced.

Of the six rapists, one – said by police to be the most vicious of the lot – was found to be under 18 years of age, and has already been sentenced for a comparatively light sentence of three years in a juvenile offenders' facility.

Another – Ram Singh – was found hanging by the neck in his prison cell. The authorities have put it down as a case of suicide, but his family claims he was murdered.

The remaining four facing the noose are Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta. They have denied all charges, and lawyers for three of the men said they would appeal against the convictions.

The four will not of course be hanged in a hurry. The case will now proceed to the Delhi High Court, and may well move on to the Supreme Court before final sentencing.

The convicts, except Akshay Thakur, broke out in tears after the judge announced the punishment. Defence lawyer A P Singh, representing Sharma and Thakur, snapped at the judge alleging his verdict was politically biased.

''You have not upheld the truth but lies. This decision has been taken under political pressure and for vote bank politics,'' Singh told the judge.

Special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan had demanded death for all the four convicts for the "grotesque and diabolic" crime; and the judge clearly agreed with him.

(See: US lauds Indian judiciary for Delhi gang-rape verdict)

(See: Four convicted for Delhi gang-rape; sentencing tomorrow)