Asha Devi (centre), mother of the Nirbhaya, reacts after the convicts who had brutally raped and murdered her daughter' were hanged in New Delhi on March 20, 2020. (Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

THE four men convicted of the gang rape and murder of a Delhi woman in December 2012 were hanged in the wee hours of this morning.

Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) were executed at 5.30am for the savage assault in a moving bus on a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known the world over as Nirbhaya, the fearless one.

This is the first time that four men have been hanged together in Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest prison complex that houses more than 16,000 inmates.

The executions were carried out after the men exhausted every possible legal avenue to escape the gallows. Their desperate attempts had postponed the inevitable by less than two months after the first date of execution was set for January 22.

In last-gasp attempts, one of the convicts knocked on the doors of the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court just hours before the hanging.

Hours before the execution, Pawan Kumar Gupta approached the Supreme Court challenging rejection of the second mercy petition by the President.

In an unprecedented late-night hearing that began at 2.30am and lasted an hour, a Supreme Court bench dismissed his last plea, paving the way for the execution.

It also refused to pass any direction allowing Gupta and Akshay Singh to meet their family members just before they are sent to the gallows.

Relieved that their daughter finally got justice after a seven-year-long legal struggle, Nirbhaya’s parents said they “finally got justice”.

“We will continue our fight for justice for India’s daughters. Justice delayed, but not denied,” her mother told reporters, after the hanging, adding that the entire country was awake, awaiting justice.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Justice has prevailed. It is of utmost importance to ensure dignity and safety of women.”


He added that “Nari Shakti has excelled in every field”, and “we have to build a nation where the focus is on women empowerment, where there is emphasis on equality and opportunity”.

Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said the hanging will send out a strong message to criminals.

“I have seen Nirbhaya’s mother’s struggle over the years, though it took time to get justice but it has been done finally,” she said.

“It is also a message to people that you can run away from law but cannot finally avoid it. I’m happy that justice has been done. I greet this day with aplomb that justice has finally been done to Nirbhaya. The hanging is a message for every criminal that one day law will catch up with you.”

There was cheer after the hanging as hundreds of people, carrying the national flag and shouting slogans of ‘Long Live Nirbhaya’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, gathered outside the Tihar Jail.  Some of them even distributed sweets.

 

People wave Indian national flags as they stand outside the gates of Tihar Jail to celebrate the execution of the four men convicted in the gang-tape and murder of a student. (Photo: MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Social activist Yogita Bhayana, who was among the people outside the jail, held a poster that read “Nirbhaya has got justice. The other daughters still await”.

“Justice has been delivered finally,” she said, adding it was a victory of the legal system.

Sana, a resident of west Delhi, said, “Nothing will change after this hanging in our society, but we are happy that the four convicts have been hanged and the justice was delivered to Nirbhaya.”

After raping and brutalising the woman, the men, one of whom was a juvenile at the time, dumped her on the road and left for dead on a cold winter night.

Her friend who was with her was also severely beaten and thrown out along with her.

She was so severely violated that her innards had spilled out when she was taken to hospital.

She later died at a Singapore hospital after battling for her life for a fortnight.   Six people, including the four convicts and the juvenile, were named as accused.

While Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide in the Tihar Jail days after the trial began in the case, the juvenile was released in 2015 after spending three years in a correctional home.

The road to the gallows was a long and circuitous one, going through the lower courts, the High Court, the Supreme Court and the President’s office, before going back to the apex court that rejected various curative petitions.

The death warrants were deferred by a court thrice on the grounds that the convicts had not exhausted all their legal remedies, and that the mercy petition of one or the other was before the President.

On March 5, a trial court had issued the final death warrants for March 20.