NEW DELHI • An Indian court yesterday ordered the execution on Jan 22 of four men convicted of the infamous 2012 gang rape and murder of a Delhi university student.
Six people were originally charged with taking part in the brutal attack aboard a city bus, but one was released after a brief detention as a juvenile and the suspected ringleader committed suicide while awaiting trial.
Delhi court judge Satish Kumar issued a warrant yesterday ordering the four on death row to be executed on Jan 22 at 7am local time.
The men have one avenue of appeal remaining. They can also petition the Indian president for mercy.
Ms Jyoti Singh, 23, was attacked in December 2012 while returning home after visiting the cinema with a male friend.
Her assailants took turns to rape and violate her with a metal rod as the bus drove around the capital, before dumping her and the beaten-up friend in a roadside ditch.
Ms Singh died from her injuries in Singapore, where she had been flown for specialist treatment, nearly a fortnight after the attack.
Tens of thousands of Indians took to the streets in protest, and the case led to a major overhaul of laws pertaining to sexual offences.
Ms Singh's family said they were pleased with the ruling.
"This judgment will reinstate women's faith in the judiciary," her mother Asha Devi told journalists. "My daughter will finally get justice."
Her father Badrinath Singh described it as a "good decision for the entire country".
"But our struggle will continue for many other daughters who are in a similar situation across India," he added.
Indian media reports say Tihar prison, where the four are incarcerated, recently held a dummy execution to test the gallows.
Despite tougher penalties for rapists and other measures introduced after the 2012 attack, India has repeatedly hit the headlines for a series of brutal attacks.
There were about 359,000 crimes against women in India in 2017, the latest year for which data is available. Of these, the number of rapes was 32,559, falling from 38,947 cases in 2016.
But sexual harassment and molestation have risen steadily since 2013, with 86,001 cases in 2017.
Delhi topped the list, with 1,168 rape cases registered in 2017. It was found that in more than 93 per cent of the cases, the perpetrator was known to the victim.
Reassuringly, the conviction rate in rape cases has improved. A third of all cases saw an accused punished - the highest ratio in a decade where only around a quarter of all cases in a year ended in conviction.