Written by: Kanika Wadhawan
This case is one of the landmark judgments of India which has brought many changes in the rape laws of India as it involves extraordinarily gruesome and barbaric. The victim Jyoti Singh was a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern who along with her friend boarded a bus at Munirka to reach Dwarka, in Delhi. Multiple organs along with dreams and aspirations of a small-town Indian girl were destroyed on a ravenous night of 16th December in 2012, as notorious molesters and assailants committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our country.
Nirbhaya is the pseudonym used for the rape victim of the infamous 16 December 2012 Delhi gang rape incident. The victims, a 23-year-old woman, Jyoti Singh, and her male friend, were returning home on the night of 16 December 2012 after watching the film Life of Pi in Saket, South Delhi.
They boarded the bus at Munirka for Dwarka at about 9:30 pm (IST). There were only six others on the bus, including the driver. One of the men, identified as a minor, had called for passengers telling them that the bus was going towards their destination.
Her friend became suspicious when the bus deviated from its normal route and its doors were shut. When he objected, the group of six men already on board, including the driver, taunted the couple, asking what they were doing alone at such a late hour.
The friend, when he tried to protect Nirbhaya, was beaten up by the perpetrators. During the argument, a scuffle ensued between her friend and the group of men. He was beaten, gagged, and knocked unconscious with an iron rod. The men then dragged Jyoti to the rear of the bus, beating her with the rod and raping her while the bus driver continued to drive.
Nirbhaya was not just sexually violated, her body was mutilated beyond human imagination. A medical report later said that she suffered serious injuries to her abdomen, intestines, and genitals due to the assault, and doctors said that the damage indicated that a blunt object (suspected to be the iron rod) may have been used for penetration. That rod was later described by police as being a rusted, L-shaped implement of the type used as a wheel jack handle. She later died of multiple organ failure and internal bleeding.
1) Batla house accused got life; was let off due to politics, why death for these rape accused now?
2) Why Parliamentarians accused of dacoity, rape, and murder are not tried by fast-track courts?
3) Poor get jailed as they cannot hire good lawyers. The judge replied, "why say now after the trial"
4) Crime is not pre-meditated and happened at the spur of the moment. The court should be lenient as the accused is very young
5) Convict Vinay Sharma is a good student and has applied for the Air Force. He did not commit the crime
6) Akshay is responsible for his ill parents, wife, and child. He should be shown mercy.
7) Convict Mukesh Singh's lawyer says, 'Yeh baade bhai (Ram Singh who committed suicide) ke chakkar mein phans gaya"
8) Invoking Mahatma Gandhi's name, lawyer A P Singh says "God gives life and he alone can take it and not man-made courts"
9) Life imprisonment is the rule and the death penalty is an exception.
10) Death is irreversible; the purpose of justice is reform and reconciliation
A three-judge bench agreed that the act done by the accused did not deserve any sympathy.
In a strong message, that the diabolic crime had shocked the collective conscience of the society, and that the court can treat it as a rarest of rare cases where death sentences can be awarded. DNA identification, fingerprints, witness testimonies, and odontology proved the presence of the accused in the bus and their involvement in the crime, as said by the Supreme Court.
The casual manner with which she was treated and the devilish manner in which they played with her body, her identity, and her dignity is humanly unthinkable, said the bench.
The Supreme Court administered justice to the family of the victim and all the women in the country by confirming the punishment of death sentence to the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case, terming it as the rarest of rare, most brutal, and barbaric attack on the 23-year-old
paramedic student, Jyoti Singh. The convicts treated the victim as an object of enjoyment and exploited her sexually to the worst level.
A three-judge bench, through a unanimous verdict, upheld the Delhi High Court judgment that had concurred with the trial court decision of the case. Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma, and Akshay Kumar Singh were hanged to death for the brutality they had shown against a woman in the country. The bench awarded them the death sentence because their crime met the rarest-of-rare threshold. After the incident, the fifth accused was not tried and he was sent to a correction home for three years because he was a minor at that time.
Changes Introduced After Nirbhaya Case
Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013
The Criminal Amendment Act, of 2013 is also popularly referred to as the Anti-rape Act.
Under this change, new offenses such as stalking, acid attacks, and voyeurism were added to the definition of rape
Even the threat of rape is now a crime and the person will be punished for the same.
The minimum sentence was changed from seven years to ten years considering the increase in the number of rape cases.
In cases that led to the death of the victim or the victim being in a vegetative state, the minimum sentence was increased to 20 years.
The character of the victim was totally irrelevant to rape cases and it does not make any difference in granting punishment for the crime.
Since one of the accused in this case was a juvenile, another flaw in the system was identified after this case. So, the age for being tried as an adult for violent crimes like rape was changed from 18 to 16 years, that to the Juvenile Justice Act, of 2015.
There was also the inclusion of registering complaints and medical examinations. The report categorically mentioned any officer, who fails to register a case of rape reported to him, or attempts to abort its investigation, commits an offense that shall be punishable as prescribed.
The committee gave extensive recommendations regarding avoiding marital rape as well as rapes committed via the commission of void marriages.
2. Changes in the Indian Penal Code, 1860
l Insertion of Section 166A which covers the offense of Disobedience of law by a public servant. After the amendment Act, it is made punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 6 months to 2 years and liable to a fine.
Insertions of Section 326A and B cover the issue of Acid attacks. The amendment Act has made it a Specific Offence under the act, punishable with 10 years’ Imprisonment extendable to life imprisonment or fine, or both.
Insertion of Section 354A which deals with Sexual harassment and punishment for the same.
Insertion of Section 354B which covers the offense of compelling a woman to remove her clothes.
Insertion of Section 354C which covers the offense of Voyeurism i.e., watching a woman when she is engaged in some private act including sexual acts or when her private parts are exposed.
Insertion of Section 354D which covers the offense of stalking.
The Age of consent has been enhanced from sixteen years to eighteen years.
The definition of rape has been widened after the Nirbhaya Case.
The Amendment Act has included more actions under the purview of what constitutes rape such as unconsented penetration of mouth, urethra, vagina, or anus with the penis or other objects by anyone and unconsented application of mouth to vagina, urethra, and anus.
Insertion of Section 376 (2)(c) which covers the offense of Rape by personnel of armed forces.
Insertion of Section 376A which deals with Rape resulting in death or a vegetative state.
Insertion of Section 376D which deals with the crime of Gang rape.
Repetition of offenses is punishable by life imprisonment or death.
The employment of a trafficked person can also attract penal provisions as well.
It has also been clarified that penetration means penetration to any extent, and lack of physical resistance or any sort of other resistance is immaterial for constituting the offense of rape.
3. Legislative reforms post Nirbhaya case
The CLA 2013 and MoHFW Guidelines are two landmark responses of the Government of India to the public protests
across the country after the Nirbhaya case.
The third response taken by the government was One Stop Centres to provide immediate to long-term care for survivors of GBV.
The protesters had several demands such as insufficient and incompetent security of women, unreliable public transport, improper functioning of the police force that often-blamed rape victims, and denied to write an F.I.R. for the crime inflicted upon them and forms of bureaucratic procedure surrounding sexual assault.
Justice Verma Committee was assigned the task of reformation of the anti-rape laws of the country.
More female officers were added to Delhi's police force so that women can share everything with them.
Security was tightened and patrolling was increased and the police now had to undergo gender sensitization courses which help in understanding the issue of women's rights and their safety.
Six fast-track courts were set up to specifically deal with rape cases with the aim of providing immediate aid to rape victims.
Laws against sexual assault were made even stricter.
Since one of the accused was a minor (17 years old) at the time of the crime, a need for changing juvenile laws had opened up.
A space for public discussion of sexual violence against women that had not existed before was created.
Failure to provide medico-legal care is now an offense under Section 166B of the IPC as per the CLA 2013.
All the six men in the Nirbhaya rape case including the juvenile were convicted by the court. All the accused were identified as Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Gupta, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, and a juvenile.
Ram Singh, the bus driver, committed suicide on March 11, 2013, in Tihar Jail during the trial.
The minor was tried separately in a juvenile court and given the maximum sentence of three years imprisonment in a reform facility.
In September 2013, the trial court awarded capital punishment to Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan, and Vinay. Subsequently, the three convicts besides Akshay had sought a review of the judgment but it was dismissed. The order on the review petition filed by Akshay was dismissed by the Supreme Court on December 18, 2019, and Finally Hung on March 20, 2020.