Top India court puts on hold death sentence for two gang-rape convicts

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's top court on Monday suspended the death sentences of two men convicted of the deadly gang-rape of a student in New Delhi, an attack that triggered international outrage.

The Supreme Court temporarily stayed the sentences passed on gym instructor Vinay Sharma and bus cleaner Akshay Singh for the 2012 attack while their appeals were examined, a lawyer said.

"The sentence was stayed by the court after we filed the special leave petition," A.P. Singh, who represents the two men, told AFP. "We want a full bench to hear this appeal. The claims against my clients are totally false, they have been wrongly accused," he said.

"They were not even in Delhi when this crime was supposed to have happened."

Four men were convicted and sentenced to death last year for raping the 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in the capital in December 2012, a crime that unleashed weeks of angry protests over India's treatment of women.

The High Court this year upheld the death penalty on the four including Sharma and Singh, calling the crime "gruesome" and saying the case fell into the "rarest of rare category" which warranted execution.

The other two convicts, Mukesh Singh and Pawan Gupta, have already filed an appeal against their sentences.

The physiotherapy student was attacked with an iron rod after she was tricked into boarding a private bus to go home from the cinema with a male friend.

Her male companion was badly beaten and could not go to her aid as she was assaulted on the moving bus by six attackers.

The pair were later dumped naked and bleeding on the roadside.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai on Monday issued the order for the latest two as part of a procedure to examine the appeal.

A juvenile was also convicted over the gang-rape and sentenced to detention, while another suspect was found dead in his cell in an apparent suicide.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.