SC dismisses review petition of Nirbhaya rape case accused; upholds death penalty

Indian defence lawyer AP Singh representing men accused of gang raping and murdering a woman in 2012 talks to the media outside India's Supreme Court building in New Delhi

In May last year, India's highest court upheld the 2013 death penalty verdicts for four of the six assailants who gang-raped and tortured a 23-year-old college student in New Delhi in December 2012, saying they did not deserve leniency due to "brutal, barbaric and diabolical" conduct.

On Monday, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan said the SC had heard appeals filed by the accused against the Delhi HC verdict for 38 days, giving them ample opportunity to raise all possible grounds in their defence, which were minutely considered by the apex court before delivering its verdict on May 5 a year ago.

The fourth death row convict, Akshay Kumar Singh (31), did not file a review petition against the apex court's May 5, 2017 judgement. Of the two other accused, Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail while the juvenile was sent to a reformation home for three years and has been out since then. His lawyer had claimed that his client was being framed.

Singh, a physiotherapy student, was raped and left for dead by a gang of five men and a teenager on a bus in the Indian capital New Delhi in December 2012. She had succumbed to injuries on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. The sixth member was tried as a minor and sentenced to time in a correctional facility, while the four adults were sentenced to death in 2013, a ruling confirmed in 2014 by the Delhi high court. Only three of them were involved in the appeal rejected by the Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court upholding its verdict is a strong message to those who commit such heinous crimes".

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A lawyer for the men, A.P. Singh, told reporters at the courthouse after the verdict that "injustice" had been done to the convicted murderers - using the Hindi word for "boys" to describe them - and the court had caved to public and political pressure to uphold the death penalty. She came to be known as "Nirbhaya", meaning "fearless".

"I appeal to the prime minister to take concrete steps against atrocities towards young girls and women", Asha Devi, the mother of the victim, said.

The brutal crime had sparked widespread protests and drew worldwide attention over violence against women in India.

The case led to the introduction of the death sentence for raping girls under 12.

More than 370 convicts were on death row as on December 2017, the last official count, down from 399 the previous year.

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