New Delhi: Union minister Maneka Gandhi today said the Supreme Court verdict in the December 16 gang-rape case will act as a "severe deterrent" against such heinous crimes.
The minister's reaction came after the top court held that the nature and manner of the crime "devastated social trust", and fell in the 'rarest of rare' category warranting death penalty for the four convicts.
"A judgement like this was necessary to send a stern message to people who commit such heinous crimes, and future offenders, especially juveniles, who may commit such acts," she told reporters on the sidelines of an event at her women and child development ministry office.
Asked if justice was delayed, she said, "It has been close to five years, but in this country getting justice takes decades. So justice definitely has been done. I am happy. The whole country is happy."
She, however, underlined that there was a need to fast- track such cases. "Justice delivered in four-and-a- half years is still a miracle," she said.
The minister also empathised with the victim's family, saying these five years must have been excruciatingly painful for the parents.
The 23-year-old woman was gang-raped on a wintry night of December 16, 2012 and brutalised, an act that triggered nation-wide outrage and made the country rally together for justice, lending her the moniker of 'Nirbhaya' or 'braveheart'.
The court described the attack on the paramedic student as the most brutal, barbaric and diabolical.
The Minister, when asked about the convicted juvenile, who was sentenced three years of punishment in a reform home, said, "We wanted to get punishment for him too, but the law at that time didn't allow.
"Over the period, we got the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act amended for heinous crimes."
As per the amended legislation, juveniles aged 16 years and above will now be tried under laws for adults for heinous crimes.
"Then, we made the Nirbhaya Fund of Rs 2,000 crore out of which Rs 550 crore has been spent. We have opened 150 one-stop centres under the banner of 'Sakhi' where any woman victim can access services of doctors, lawyers, counselors. We also brought in panic button service on mobile phones.
"I can say, a woman in 2017 feels a bit safer than how she felt in 2012 after the crime was committed," Maneka Gandhi said.