Describing the crime as a ‘story from a different world’, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death penalty for the four men convicted of brutally gang-raping Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in December 2012. ‘Gruesome’, ‘gross’, ‘sadistic’ and ‘beastly’ were some of the words used by the court in the 429-page order.
This, currently, seems to have brought to an end, arguably the most publicised and controversial cases in recent memory. On Dec 16, 2012, six men had gang-raped Jyoti Singh and an iron rod had been inserted inside her. It had sparked nationwide protests, with many demanding the death penalty. Eventually, the woman had succumbed to her injuries on Dec 29.
Yet, ever since the trial for the case began five years ago, many arguments have been floated against giving the four men the strictest of punishments, some frankly bordering on the outrageous. From quoting Gandhian philosophy to speculating on the ‘medical impossibility’ of inserting a rod inside a girl’s private parts, the defence, in fact, came up with many arguments to go easy on the rapists.
Consider what AP Singh, the defence lawyer of two of the convicts, said after the final verdict was announced: “The values of Mahatma Gandhi have been blown to pieces. Mahatma Gandhi had spoken about non-violence. Human rights have been blown to pieces.” This is the same lawyer who had said something which probably wouldn’t have made Gandhi very happy. Singh is also the same lawyer that had famously defended the convicts earlier by saying this, “If my daughter or my sister gives importance to relationships before marriage, or if she defames her character before marriage, then I’ll definitely make her stand in my farmhouse and have the guts to pour petrol on her and burn her in front of the entire family.”
ML Sharma, another advocate representing one of the convicts, who gained national notoriety for some of his statements in the documentary film “India’s Daughter”, even promised ₹10 lakh to anyone who could prove that an iron rod had been inserted inside the girl. He was of the view that it was impossible for the intestines of the girl to have come out since her uterus had not been damaged, according to reports of doctors. According to Sharma, the ‘rod theory’ was only added later to sensationalise the case.
The provisions of the law were also quoted to convince the Court from giving the death penalty. The main argument by Raju Ramachandran, the Supreme Court’s amicus curae in the case, went something like this: Since this was an individual act of brutality, all convicts did not deserve to be hanged.
In his submission to the apex court, Ramachandran also said the accused were not given any ‘individualised sentencing process‘ and were treated like a ‘homogenous class of condemned criminals‘. “It may be pertinent to note that the use of the iron rod was a crucial consideration in convicting the accused under section 302 (for murder) and also in determining the brutality of the crime,” Ramachandran tried to reason with the Court.
With the 429 page strong judgement, the execution of Mukesh (27), Pawan Gupta (20), Vinay Sharma (21) and Akshay Thakur (29) – the four men convicted of the crime is now almost certain, and the only recourse left to the convicts is to file a mercy petition before the President.
The judgement also systematically goes against the many arguments made by the defence counsel through the last five years that came in the way of delivering justice to Jyoti Singh. The Court’s stand is clear, as the judgement says, “The present case clearly comes within the category of ‘rarest of rare case’ where the question of any other punishment is unquestionably foreclosed.”