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Justice delayed but not denied: After a long wait, Nirbhaya’s rapists finally hang from the noose

The 4 convicts involved in the gang rape and murder of Nirbhaya exploited every loophole in the judicial system to delay justice. However, they could not escape the noose.

After a long wait of 7 years, Nirbhaya finally got justice. The four convicts, Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Kumar Singh, and Vinay Sharma involved in the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student, named Nirbhaya by the media, were executed on Friday at 5:30 am at India’s high-security Tihar jail.

What happened after the execution?

Post their execution, their bodies were allowed to hang for 30 minutes. The bodies of the deceased rapists were then examined by a doctor as per protocol. They were then sent for post-mortem at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital. A panel of 5 doctors led by Dr BN Mishra performed the autopsies on camera. Their bodies would be handed over to the respective families after the post-mortem.

High Court Hearing

On Thursday night, the Delhi High Court began hearing a plea against the Trial Court’s refusal to stay the execution of the death warrant in the Nirbhaya rape case.

Advocate Shams Khawaja who appeared in Court on behalf of Pavan Gupta alleged that the President of India Ram Nath Kovind was “prejudiced” in rejection of the mercy plea. He claimed, “There is a glaring miscarriage of justice.”

The Court rebuked, “Once a judge signs a judgement, he cannot touch that case again. You want to carry on, go on! We will sit here till 5.30 am..”

Justice Manmohan said, “There is no annexure, no memo of parties, there is nothing in this matter, no affidavits, nothing. Do you have the permission to file this Petition?”

Advocate AP Singh gave a bizarre reply, “I have been so hopeless because of Coronavirus. The photocopies are not available. I have everything but was not able to give a copy because there is no means to get the photocopy done.”

Justice Manmohan emphasised, “We will not be able to help you at the eleventh … You have four-five hours. If you want to make use, tell us. If you have a point then come to that. We are close to the time where your client can meet God. Don’t waste time. We have no time.”

Singh demanded for an additional time which was rejected by the Delhi High Court. The Court observed, “Plea of juvenility has been dismissed by the three courts and cannot be raised at this stage.” As such, the petition was dismissed.

Supreme Court Hearing

A Bench of the Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna began hearing the petition filed by Advocate AP Singh at 2:30 am on Friday. When AP Singh made submissions on the claims of juvenility, Justice Bhushan said that the case cannot be reviewed whenever desired and that there were no sufficient grounds to challenge the rejection of the mercy plea by the President of India.

AP Singh claimed that Pawan Gupta’s FIR against Mandoli jail authorities for “alleged torture” was pending before the court. He alleged that Gupta had received 14 stitches due to the attack. Singh asked the Court to record the convict’s statement before he is hanged till death. Justice Banumathi dismissed these claims citing that they have been raised earlier as well.

The Court observed that the case of “alleged torture” against Pawan Gupta was not a sufficient ground to challenge President’s rejection of the mercy plea. Since AP Singh had no arguments, besides the rejected yet repeated claims of juvenility, the Supreme Court dismissed the plea. And thus the path to the execution was finally cleared.

The Reaction of Convicts’ Lawyer

The 46-year-old lawyer of Nirbhaya’s convicts, AP Singh, used delay tactics to prolong the death sentence handed out to them. On being asked about his vicious attempt at victim shaming and character assassination, he replied, “Should I not ask what the girl was doing with the boy so late at night? It is part of the evidence. I wasn’t saying they had a brother-sister relationship or they were out to celebrate rakhi. All I said was that they are friends. Now in their society, boyfriend-girlfriend relation must be laudable, but not in the culture I come from,” “

“If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital sex and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her on fire”, AP Singh was heard saying in a controversial documentary titled India’s Daughter.

The Reaction of Nirbhaya’s Parents

After the Supreme Court rejected the plea filed by convict Pawan Gupta seeking a stay on his execution, a relieved Nirbhaya’s mother, Asha Devi, said, “I hugged the picture of my daughter and said today you got justice.”

Speaking to the media, post the execution, she emphasised, “I am proud of my daughter. The whole world knows me because of her. It would have been better if I was known as the mother of a doctor but that dream was never fulfilled. I could not protect her but I was able to fight for her.” “

The Reaction of People

A large crowd gathered outside the Tihar jail premises in the wee hours of the morning and raised slogans of “Bharat Mata ki Jail”, “AP Singh Murdabad” and “Long Live Nirbhaya.” Many distributed sweets while some overjoyed by the final delivery of justice, waved the national flag. A woman who seen carrying a placard that read “Der Hui, Andher Nahin (Justice took time but it did not die in darkness).”

Ravinder Singh Bakshi, a resident of Delhi’s Hari Nagar, said, “My wife advised me not to step out amidst the coronavirus outbreak but I could not contain my happiness as justice is being given to my sister.”

Conclusion

While the trial court gave the death penalty to all the five adults, the juvenile (unnamed) was sent to probation home for 3 years. One of the convicts (Ram Singh) committed suicide in the jail, rest preferred appeal in the High court and subsequently to the Supreme Court. The court rejected the appeal and upheld the death penalty stating that it falls under the category of “rarest of rare” case.

The 4 convicts involved in the gang rape and murder of Nirbhaya exploited every loophole in the judicial system to delay justice. However, they could not escape the noose. Justice was delayed in this case but not denied. For Asha Devi, execution of the convicts would have finally brought closure to a 7-year-long legal battle.

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