'Women feel unsafe': Prosecutors call on judges to uphold death sentences for Delhi gang-rape


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The Independent Online

Prosecutors have called on judges to uphold the death sentences handed down to the men convicted of the Delhi gang-rape, arguing that a message would be sent to society that "deviant behaviour" would not be tolerated.

"After the incidents of gang-rape in Delhi and Mumbai, there is a feeling that women in this country are unsafe everywhere," prosecutor Dayan Krishnan told the Delhi High Court. "By giving the maximum sentence the message to society would be that deviant behaviour of an extreme nature will not be tolerated."

He added: "By not giving the maximum sentence the message sent out will be that people can get away with incidents like this."

The submission to the court came as lawyers for four men convicted earlier this year and sentenced to death for the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student are challenging the lower court's decision.

In September, Mukesh Singh, 26, Akshay Thakur, 28, Pawan Gupta, 19, and Vinay Sharma, 20, were sentenced to death by a fast-track court following a trial that lasted nine months. All had pleaded not guilty.

A fifth man, Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh's brother, was found hanging in his cell in Delhi's Tihar jail earlier in the year. A sixth male, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was also found guilty and sentenced to three years in a young offenders' institution.

The young woman had been fatally assaulted as she and a male friend made their way home from an evening at the cinema and erroneously boarded an off-duty bus which the men were driving around the city. After being beaten, stripped and the young woman repeated raped, the pair were thrown from the moving vehicle.

On Friday, Mr Krishnan told the court that the brutal nature of the crime meant it fitted the requirement fixed by the Indian Supreme Court that the death penalty only be awarded in the "rarest of rare" cases. He also said the poor backgrounds of the convicted men should not be considered a form of mitigation. "If this is not a rarest of rare case, there is none," he said.

As it was, the defendants were not in court on Friday and neither were their lawyers. ML Sharma, who represents Mukesh Singh and Pawan Gupta, belatedly sent a message to the court saying he was away from Delhi, attending another case. Lawyers for the two other men were also not present to make their case.

"It is a very unfortunate situation, we are extremely pained. That is what we can say," said Judge Reva Khetrapal, who said the impression was being given that the lawyers had no defence to offer. "Running away will not solve the problem. How long will you run? Better to put your best foot forward."

Earlier in the week, Mr Krishnan told the court there was extensive medical evidence to support the prosecution's case. He said the trial court had relied on a DNA analysis report, the testimonies of doctors from Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi and also from Singapore, where the victim was sent in a failed attempt to save her.

"The report clearly established the involvement of the accused," he said, according to the Press Trust of India.