Four men sentenced to death for the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi will hang at 7 am on January 22, a court declared today, putting out a death warrant in the case that scarred India. Mukesh Singh, 32, Pawan Gupta, 25, Vinay Sharma, 26, and Akshay Kumar Singh, 31, will be executed together at Tihar jail, where officials had started preparing a month ago.
All four reportedly broke down in jail after the death warrant.
"This judgement will reinforce people's faith in the judiciary and empower women. My daughter will get justice," said Nirbhaya's mother.
The 23-year-old, who came to be known as "Nirbhaya (fearless)", died days after she was raped on a moving bus, tortured with an iron rod and dumped on the road, naked and bleeding, on December 16, 2012. She and her friend had boarded the bus from south Delhi after a movie.
It was a crime of staggering brutality that provoked street protests across the country - and even other countries - and became a turning point for laws to ensure the safety of women.
As the judge pronounced the order, the courtroom was packed and thick with emotion. Nirbhaya's parents as well as family members of the convicts wept.
Just before the order, the mother of convict Mukesh Singh had walked up to Nirbhaya's mother and pleaded with her. "I appeal to you to forgive my son. I am begging for his life," she said, holding her sari before her in a gesture of begging. "I had a daughter too. How can I forget what happened with her? I have been waiting for justice for seven years...," Nirbhaya's mother responded.
The convicts have 14 days to use their final legal options. They will be in separate cells, in solitary confinement, and will be allowed one last meeting with their families.
Sources say the scaffold has been widened so all four can be hanged at the same time.
Last month, the Supreme Court had dismissed the last review petition filed by Akshay Kumar Singh. Nirbhaya's parents then asked a lower court to issue a death warrant but the judge had deferred a decision until today. Nirbhaya's mother had wept before the judge, who had consoled her saying he was bound by the law.
Besides the four convicts, two more were arrested after the gang-rape and murder. Ram Singh, the fifth accused, was found hanging in his cell and the sixth, just months short of 18 when the crime was committed, was released after three years in a reform home.
Arguing against any review of the death sentence, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said last month: "There are certain crimes where 'humanity cries' and this case is one of them. On that fateful day, God also must have held his head in shame for two reasons. First, for not being able to save the innocent girl, and second, for having created these five monsters."
The execution is expected to take place in Jail 3 of Tihar, where dummy trials have been carried out to test the gallows. Officials say ropes have been brought from Buxar, Bihar, the kind used to hang Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in 2013.