Delhi bus rapists wait to hear fate
on 11/09/2013 13:05:26
A judge in New Delhi had been due to sentence them today, but postponed the hearing.
The prosecutor called for all four to be hanged after they were convicted yesterday in the December gang rape of the 23-year-old woman; a brutal crime that unleashed a wave of public anger over the treatment of Indian women and a long-unspoken epidemic of sexual violence. The victim died two weeks after the attack.
The four face either life or death by hanging. Calls for the men to be executed have grown increasingly loud, with everyone from the victim's parents to top political leaders demanding the death sentence.
Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan said the attack shocked India's "collective conscience". "There can be nothing more diabolic than a helpless girl put through torture," he said.
The four men sat in in the back of the tiny court impassively, although it was not clear how much they understood of the proceedings. Most of the day's arguments were in English, a language that only one of them can speak. They had no translator.
The defence lawyers have proclaimed their innocence, while sometimes indicating some of the men may have been on the bus. They insist that any confessions were from by police torture. They called for the judge to avoid the death penalty.
"If they have committed a mistake, and the court accepted that they committed a mistake, then they should be given a chance to reform," A.P. Singh, who has worked with all the defendants at various times, said. "The accused are not habitual and professional criminals. They should be given one chance to reform themselves."
Vivek Sharma, a lawyer representing Pawan Gupta, a 19-year-old fruit vendor, asked for a sentence of life imprisonment, noting that Indian law calls for execution only in very exceptional cases.
Mr Sharma said the crime may have happened "on the spur of the moment" and urged leniency for his client because of his age and because he had to support his impoverished family. He said Gupta did not join in the rape or in violating the victim with an iron bar.
The family of the victim watched from one row in front of the prisoners. Afterwards they again called for the men to be hanged.
"They finished our daughter," said the father, who cannot be named to guard his daughter's identity as a rape victim. "We want them finished."
India's Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty should only be used in "the rarest of rare cases," though what defines those cases remains highly debated.
By most estimates, more than 100 people are sentenced to death in India in most years, but the vast majority of those cases are eventually commuted to life in prison.
India had an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment that lasted eight years, ending with the November 2012 execution of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunmen in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Two months later, Mohammad Afzal Guru, convicted in a deadly 2001 attack on India's Parliament, was also hanged.