The capital woke to the chilling news, of gang-rape and murder of a woman on December 17, 2012. The brutal incident evoked the knowledge that the safety of women is nothing but a bubble wrap with a sense of false security in the heart of the country.
On December 16 2012, paramedical student Jyoti Singh, now known as Nirbhaya which stands for fearless was gang-raped and assaulted by six men in a privately-owned moving bus. She was travelling with her male friend who was also injured, later both of them admitted to Safdarjung hospital.
The police identified the accused – bus driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta. On December 18 2012, Ram Singh and three others were arrested, and the sixth accused Akshay Thakur was arrested on December 22, 2012. What became more shocking was the involvement of the juvenile perpetrator in this gruesome murder.
With the condition of Jyoti Singh being declared critical on December 25 2012, she was taken to Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital by the government on December 26, 2012. Still, she succumbed to injuries and died on December 29 2012.
The brutal incident took place just a few days before the beginning of the New Year; the nation was mourning over the death of an innocent soul. The worst was yet to come. It took the government and the law authorities over a month to finalize the charges on the accused despite putting the case on fast track court.
It was on January 3, 2013, that police filed a charge sheet against five adults accused of murder, gang rape, attempt to murder, kidnapping, unnatural offences and dacoity. However, it was on September 13, 2013, that court convicted Mukesh, Vinay, Akshay, Pawan for the charges mentioned above.
It took the Indian legislature 9 months to finalise the verdict on the Nirbhaya case.
During this period one of the convict Ram Singh committed suicide in Tihar Jail on March 11, 2013, raising the question on authorities who were responsible for keeping him until proven guilty. The appeal was raised in High Court also, but High court ruled on the same verdict granting death penalty to the four accused in the case on January 4, 2014, while the minor who was involved in gang-rape and murder convicted to serve a three-year term at a juvenile home.
The accused Mukesh appealed to the Supreme Court in 2017 to review its verdict of upholding capital punishment (hanging) awarded to him in November. Followed by Vinay Sharma and Pawan Kumar Gupta in December 2017 also appeal to the Supreme Court.
After reviewing the appeals in May 2018, SC dismissed the pleas of the three convicts in July. Again, in December 2019, Akshay filed for review of plea but was denied.
On December 19, 2019, Delhi HC dismissed the plea of Pawan Kumar Gupta claiming he was a juvenile at the time of the offence. On January 7, 2020, Delhi court ordered the 4 convicts to be hanged on January 22, 2020, at 7 am in Tihar Jail; later the date was changed to February 1, 2020, 6 am as the execution as Tihar authorities sought the issuance of fresh death warrants date. It was disheartening to see that the case which had been dragging for more than eight years was yet to see the justice being served.
Finally, Delhi court on February 16, 2020, issued a fresh death warrant for March 3, 2020, at 6 am against the four convicts. This is the third time the death warrant has been issued against them. In the proceedings on February 17, 2020, Mukesh demanded a change of his lawyer while Vinay was on hunger strike in Tihar Jail hence could not be hanged due to his illness and injuries.
Currently, the Nirbhaya case execution date has been finalised to Match 3, 2020, since there is no petition pending from either of the convicts. However, Pawan Gupta has the option to file a curative as well a mercy petition which he is yet to exercise.
Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi protested outside the Delhi court for delay in the hanging of convicts. It was after when the trial court offered Pawan Gupta legal aid which was entitled to him. She broke down before the Delhi court demanding her rights for seeking justice for more than eight years. It had been a long fight for her from the point of arrests to trial to seeking execution.
Through this journey of eight years, the emotional and psychological torture on the parents of the victim was something which could have been prevented had the government took the initiative to make better rules for the safety of women. Today the capital is considered one of the unsafest places for women to live in India if that is the condition of capital one can only imagine the situation of the nation.