India’s top court upholds death penalty for gang rapists

India’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld death sentences for three men convicted for the gang-rape and murder of a young woman in the capital New Delhi in 2012.

“There is no merit in the petitions,” said Justice Ashok Bhushan, who read out the judgment.

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Jyoti Singh, a physiotherapy student, was on a bus home from the cinema with a male friend when she was raped and thrown off the bus by a gang of five men and a teenager.

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The gang beat the man unconscious before raping and torturing 23-year-old Singh with an iron bar as the private bus drove loops through the Indian capital.

After 45 minutes she was then dumped on the street with horrific internal injuries, dying as a result of them 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.

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Singh survived long enough to be able to identify her attackers and following a seven-month trial, four of the men were convicted in September 2013 for murder, gang-rape, theft, conspiracy and “unnatural acts.”

The four men have maintained their innocence but only three appealed to have their death sentences lifted. Their legal avenues for appeal are not yet exhausted.

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A fifth man, who was the suspected leader of the group, was found dead in prison in what is thought to be a suicide, while a 17-year-old was sentenced to three years in a detention center and has since been released.

‘A great message’

The gang-rape sparked demonstrations attended by tens of thousands of people in Delhi and across India, which led to harsher sentences for sex crimes, including the death penalty.

Singh’s parents on Monday welcomed the ruling, with her mother Asha Singh saying it was “very happy news.”

“It’s a great message for the entire society. This verdict is meant for society, women and all of us,” Singh’s father told reporters.

India has seen a swathe of sex crimes over the past few months, including attacks on children.

The gang-rape of an eight-year-old girl from a Muslim nomadic community in January has seen further angry protests.

The girl from the northern Jammu region died after she was kidnapped, drugged and gang raped by several men for days at a Hindu temple.

India is one of the countries that still permits capital punishment, typically hanging those sentenced to death, the law was inherited from Britain during Imperial rule.

law/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)