NEW DELHI – A judge on Friday sentenced to death the four men convicted in the December gang rape and murder of a young New Delhi woman, ordering them to the gallows for a brutal attack on a bus that left the young woman with such severe internal injuries that she died two weeks later.
"In these times, when crime against women is on the rise, the courts cannot turn a blind eye toward such gruesome crimes," Judge Yogesh Khanna said in announcing the sentence. He said the attack "shocked the collective conscience" of India.
Hearing the death sentence, the wail of one of the four men, 20-year-old Vinay Sharma, filled the tiny courtroom. Sharma, an assistant at a gym, then broke down in sobs.
"This is not the victory of truth. But it is the defeat of justice," defense lawyer A.P. Singh, who at times has worked with all four of the defendants, shouted at the judge.
Like all death sentences, Khanna's order must be confirmed by India's High Court. The men can appeal their case to the High Court, as well as to the Supreme Court, and ask the president for clemency.
The victim's family, along with numerous politicians and government officials, had long called for the men to be executed.
"I am very happy our girl has got justice," said the victim's father, who cannot be named under Indian laws guarding his daughter's identity as a rape victim.
The case has been closely followed across India, seen as a reflection on rampant mistreatment of women and the government's inability to deal with crime.
The victim and a male friend were coming home from a movie when the men tricked them into boarding a bus they were joy-riding through the city. They quickly beat the friend, held the woman down and took turns raping her. They also penetrated her with a metal rod, causing the injuries that led to her death in a Singapore hospital.
The defendants and the victims all lived on the bottom rungs of Indian society. One, Mukesh Singh, occasionally drove the bus where the crime occurred and cleaned it. Sharma, the gym assistant, was the only one of the attackers to graduate from high school. Akshay Thakur, 28, occasionally worked as a driver's helper on the bus.
With them on the bus were two other men. Police say Ram Singh, 33, hanged himself in prison, though his family insists he was killed. Another man -- an 18-year-old who was a juvenile at the time of the attack and cannot be identified under Indian law -- was convicted in August and will serve the maximum sentence he faced, three years in a reform home.