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Men Convicted Of Gang Rape, Murder In India Sentenced To Die


In India, four men have been sentenced to death for a gang rape and murder that outraged the world. The judge said the case depicted beastly, unparalleled behavior that shocked the collective conscience. The 23-year-old victim died of her injuries two weeks after the attack last December. NPR's Julie McCarthy has more from New Delhi.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The horrific case that began on a cold December night ended in a steamy courtroom nine months later with a black-robed judge sweeping into the hushed chamber to deliver his sentence. The four convicted men, Akshay Thakur, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta are to be hanged by the neck until they are dead. Judge Yogesh Khanna did not linger. His ruling that had the country holding its breath lasted no more than 90 seconds. He opened by acknowledging why everyone was there. These are times when gruesome crimes against women have become rampant, he said, and courts cannot turn a blind eye to the need to send a strong deterrent message.

The judge fixed his signature to the order to send the men to the gallows, then broke the tip of the pen, a gesture meant to symbolize the hope he would never have to impose such a sentence again. With that flourish, he strode from the courtroom leaving a defense lawyer shouting after him, this is not the triumph of truth. This is the triumph of falsehoods.

A wailing then rent the stifling chamber. It came from convicted Vinay Sharma, 20, who broke into sobs as police spirited the condemned men from the court. They had, on the night of December 16th, lured a young woman anxious to get home onto a bus, where she was repeatedly raped and a serrated rod rammed inside of her. The judge ruled that the inhumane acts of torture inflicted before her death had shocked the collective conscience.

It was, he declared, a case of the rarest of the rare, a legal standard in India meant to reserve the death penalty for only the most heinous crimes. Outside the courthouse, there was a sense of satisfaction.


MCCARTHY: As a tiny crowd chanted, hang them, Kali Bowa(ph), a father of four, looked on. He'd attended the protests that rocked Delhi last December. Part solidarity with the victim in this case, part fury at the lax policing that had helped make Delhi the rape capital of India.

KALI BOWA: (Speaking foreign language)

MCCARTHY: Whoever does this sort of thing should be hanged as soon as possible, Bowa said. Even the devil wouldn't dare do what was done to this young woman. It was a very good decision and I'm happy, he says. Many who gathered were unhappy that the juvenile in this case, tried separately, had been sentenced to the maximum three years in a reformatory.

They want him to be hanged as well. But Supreme Court advocate Karun Unundi(ph) says what is required to address the violence in India is certain justice, not extreme justice.

KARUN UNUNDI: And studies across the world show that the death penalty doesn't deter violent crime. In fact, there are some studies that show that it actually increases violent crime. And certain justice, good policing, public education, that's what reduces crimes against women. Right? The death penalty is neither here nor there.

MCCARTHY: Unundi says to have meaningful change, the government of India must take up this question of violence against women the way it took up and eradicated polio. This case did lead India to question how it treats its women and asked why there are just 14 judges for everyone 1 million people fueling a culture of impunity. The parents of the victim who quietly waged their own campaign for justice on behalf of their daughter, walked hand in hand from the courthouse today.

For the first time, the public saw them smiling. They said they will challenge any appeal against the death penalty lodged by the men who murdered their daughter. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.