New Delhi: The four men convicted of the rape and murder of a Nirbhaya on December 16, 2012 were hanged in the darkness of pre-dawn on Friday, culminating a chapter in India’s history of sexual assault that had seared the nation’s soul.
Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) were executed at 5:30 am on Friday for the assault on the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern in an empty moving bus.
News agency PTI reported that director general of Tihar, Sandeep Goel, said, “A doctor has examined the bodies and declared all four dead.”
Jail officials said the bodies were kept hanging for half an hour, a mandatory procedure after execution as per the prison manual.
This is the first time that four men have been hanged together in Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest prison complex that houses more than 16,000 inmates. The executions were carried out after the men exhausted every possible legal avenue to escape the gallows. Their execution comes nearly two months after the first date of execution, set for January 22, by a Delhi court.
In last-gasp attempts, one of the convicts knocked on the doors of the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court just hours before the hanging.
Pawan Kumar Gupta had approached the Supreme Court, challenging the rejection of the second mercy petition by the president. In an unprecedented late-night hearing that began at 2:30 am and lasted an hour, a Supreme Court bench dismissed his last plea, paving the way for the execution.
It also refused to pass any direction allowing Gupta and Akshay Singh to meet their family members just before they were sent to the gallows.
Justice served, say Nirbhaya’s parents
Relieved that their daughter finally got justice after a seven-year-long legal struggle, Nirbhaya’s parents said they will continue their “fight for India’s daughters”.
“We finally got justice. We will continue our fight for justice for India’s daughters. Justice delayed, but not denied,” her mother Asha Devi told reporters after the hanging.
She added that women will definitely feel safer after the execution of the convicts.
The mother said the entire country was awake and waiting for justice.
Hundreds of people had gathered outside Tihar Jail in the early hours of Friday, carrying the national flag and raising slogans of ‘long live Nirbhaya’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. Some of them distributed sweets after the four convicts were executed, according to news agency PTI.
Among the people who gathered outside the jail was social activist Yogita Bhayana. She held a poster which read ‘Nirbhaya has got justice. The other daughters still await’. “Justice has been delivered finally,” she said.
Sana, a resident of west Delhi, said, “Nothing will change after this hanging in our society, but we are happy that the four convicts have been hanged and the justice was delivered to Nirbhaya.”
After raping and brutalising Nirbhaya, the men, one of whom was a juvenile at the time, dumped her on the road and left for dead on the cold winter night. Her friend, who was with her, was also severely beaten and left on the road. She died in a Singapore hospital after battling for her life for a fortnight.
Six people, including the four convicts and the juvenile, were named as accused. While Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide in Tihar days after the trial began, the juvenile was released in 2015 after spending three years in a correctional home.
The road to the gallows was a long and circuitous one, going through the lower courts, the high court, the Supreme Court and the president’s office before going back to the Supreme Court, which heard and rejected various curative petitions.
The death warrants were deferred by a court thrice on the grounds that the convicts had not exhausted all their legal remedies and that the mercy petition of one or the other was before the president.
On March 5, a trial court issued fresh death warrants for March 20 at 5:30 am as the final date for the execution.
Hanging of convicts real tribute to Nirbhaya: Investigators
Investigating officers of the case on Friday called the hanging of the four convicts a ”real tribute” to Nirbhaya.
Pramod Singh Kushwaha, then the additional DCP (South) and who headed the investigation team, said, “The hanging is a tribute to the departed soul. They will also act as a deterrent to other rapists.”
Inspector Anil Sharma, who was the SHO of Vasant Vihar police station and investigated the case, said, “It is a tribute to Nirbhaya. We stood with her family during court hearings and will be there for them.”