Skip to main content

High Court of Delhi upholds gang-rape death sentences

By Euan McKirdy, CNN
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
Vinay Sharma, one of the accused, is led into court in September 2013.
Vinay Sharma, one of the accused, is led into court in September 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Four accused in case that gripped nation have had death sentences upheld
  • Upheld High Court judgment had been largely expected
  • Public interest and severity of crime cited as reasons for upholding death penalty
  • Accused have dwindling opportunities for appeal

(CNN) -- Four men accused in a rape trial that has both shocked and gripped India had their appeals for clemency quashed Thursday, as the victim's family welcomed the judgment.

The four were initially sentenced to death last September for the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman -- who cannot be identified -- in December 2012. The case appalled the nation, leading to a strengthening of the country's laws protecting women.

Two female judges, Justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani of the High Court of Delhi upheld the death penalty for four of the six men, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh. A fifth, Ram Singh, hanged himself while in custody last year and the sixth, a minor when the crime was committed, was sentenced to a maximum of three years in a juvenile facility.

Being female in India
Family of rape victim shares their story
India sees changes in year after attack

OPINION: Death penalty a solution?

"We have got full faith in the judiciary. We had expected this verdict. But the ultimate satisfaction will be when the convicts meet their ultimate fate," the victim's mother told reporters outside the High Court.

"My family ... we are quite happy with the decision. We are all accepting this (ruling). It will change some things in India. It will lead to a good change in India," the brother of the victim told CNN by phone.

Campaigners and the victim's family are also seeking the death penalty for the youngest of the accused. "He has got only three years. It's not enough. Almost all Indians want to see (the death penalty) for him," he said.

Death penalty rare

The death penalty is upheld in India for only the "rarest of the rare" cases. Given the severity of the crime and the unprecedented public interest, the court has decided that it falls within these limits.

READ MORE: Rape case 'an awakening' for India, father says

"It was expected that High Court would uphold the verdict, otherwise there would have been a lot of dissatisfaction and unhappiness in the country (due to) the gruesomeness of the case," Ranjana Kumari, President of Women Power Connect, a coalition of women's rights organizations, told CNN.

Even though Kumari is opposed to the death penalty, she said that "in this particular case I think it called for something more severe, and I think this is what has been given."

In upholding the sentence, the High Court's judgment stated, "a strong message needs to be sent to the perpetrators of grotesque and ghastly crimes against women that such crimes shall not be countenanced."

Given the public interest in the case, the judges also stated that they upheld the sentence as an "exemplary punishment" in the hope of stemming the "rising trend" of sexual assault in India.

The accused are expected to appeal to the Supreme Court. If this is also unsuccessful, they are entitled to file a petition for presidential mercy to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0815 GMT (1615 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT