Delhi High Court upholds death penalty for 4 convicts in Nirbhaya case

The Delhi High Court has upheld the death sentence of four men convicted in the case of gang rape and murder of a student in New Delhi, a case that led to protests and new anti-rape laws. The four men, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta, were convicted last September.

A fifth adult suspect was found dead in his prison cell before he the trial, while the sixth member of the group, a juvenile at the time of the crime, is serving a three-year sentence.

Judges Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani of the Delhi High Court today upheld the four men's sentences, saying that the case fell in the "rarest of rare category".

"Death reference is accepted. Death sentence awarded by the trial court is affirmed. The appeals of the convicts are dismissed," the judges said.

Earlier defence lawyers said they would appeal to the Supreme Court if the death sentences continued to remain in force.

Although the case led to tightening of anti-rape laws and society more openly discussing cases of violence against women, women across India continue to live in fear of sexual assault.

The parents of the young student who were present in court today said they were happy with the verdict, which would affect many other cases. People who had gathered around them held up posters and raised slogans against the convicts.

On 16 December 2012, a Sunday evening, the student and her male friend boarded a bus with six men on board after watching a film at a south Delhi mall.

The heinous atrocity the six committed continued to be assailed India for weeks later.

The student's male friend was thrown to the back of the bus after being repeatedly clubbed with an iron rod, which was later used to violate her. The trial court observed that she had "18 internal injuries'' and the "the act of pulling out the internal organ of the victim" was proof that the plan was to kill her.

The couple was thrown from the bus 45 minutes later and, according to doctors, they had not seen such bestiality.

Following the death of the student, the government introduced new laws making stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime, and providing for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that leading to the victim's death.