Three men who brutally raped and mutilated a student before throwing her off a moving bus sentenced to death

The physiotherapy student was raped by a gang of five men and a teenager and then left for dead after being brutalized on a bus in December 2012

                            Three men who brutally raped and mutilated a student before throwing her off a moving bus sentenced to death

The top Indian court has upheld in a review the death penalty for three men who were convicted of an infamous gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in 2012 in capital New Delhi. The Indian Supreme Court had agreed to orders of lower courts in awarding the death sentence to 23-year-old Vinay Sharma, 22-year-old Pawan Gupta, and 29-year-old Mukesh Singh last year but had accepted a review plea in last November. One of the death row convicts, Akshay Kumar Singh, 31, had not filed for the review.

The defendants have pleaded innocence from the beginning of the case. As a final attempt at saving the lives of his clients, the defense lawyer may try and appeal for a pardon from the president to get the capital punishment verdicts overturned. The victim's parents were extremely grateful for the ruling which was announced on July 9.

Asha Singh, the victim's mother, said that it was "very happy news". The father, Badrinath Singh, told reporters: "It's a great message for the entire society. This verdict is meant for society, women and all of us."

The 23-year-old victim was a physiotherapy student. She was raped by a gang of 5 men and a teenager and then left for dead after being brutalized on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012. She was on her way back home after watching a film with a male friend when they were ambushed by the gang. The friend was beaten until he was unconscious; the gang then turned its attention to the 23-year-old student.

They raped her, tortured her, at one point even inserting an iron rod in her vagina, as they drove the night streets of New Delhi for around 45 minutes, the Daily Mail reported.

She was dumped without any clothes on the street after the ordeal. The severe internal injuries caused by the iron rod, led to her death 13 days later in a hospital in Singapore, where she had been airlifted.

The resilience of the brave young woman to identify her attackers before she finally succumbed to her injuries triggered a nation-wide protest with tens of thousands of people taking part in demonstrations all across the country.

The case was a turning point for the nation, in how it treated its female population and steps were taken to address the issue.

Laws were changed and perpetrators of sex crimes have since been handed out harsher sentences. Leslee Udwin, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, made 'India's Daughter' on the case in 2015. It received immediate backlash in the country and was termed as "a conspiracy to shame India" and a bid to "decimate its tourist industry".

Four of the men from the gang were convicted of murder, gang-rape, theft, conspiracy, and "unnatural acts" after a grueling 7-month trial in a fast-track court. All four of them still claim that they are innocent. Three of the men had appealed the Supreme Court for life sentences instead of the death penalty but they were rejected.

A fifth man in the crime, the man who was suspected to have been the leader of the group, committed suicide in jail. A 17-year-old who was also involved in the crime was sentenced to three years in a juvenile detention center because he was still a minor when the trial occurred. He has since been released. The lead defense lawyer for the convicted, AP Singh, cited that "injustice" has been delivered to his clients due to "political and media pressure". 

Following the rape and the uproar it triggered, there was overwhelming demand that laws sexual assaults in the country be reworked. A panel was put together for reviewing current laws on sexual assaults.

The panel rejected appeals from citizens for rape convicts to be given the death penalty but they increased the prison sentence to 20 years.

The government, however, finally caved under increasing unrest amongst its citizens for harsher punishment for rape convicts. The capital punishment was approved for repeat offenders. In 2016, around 4,000 rapes were reported in the country, based on the most recent official figures made available to the public. According to Udwin's documentary, 1 woman in India is raped every 20 minutes, but a large number of these cases go undocumented due to the stigma attached to being a rape victim.

Many Indian families in rural and semi-urban areas still believe that they have the right to kill a woman who has "besmirched the family name" by being raped. There is also the threat that the attackers make towards the victims which prevent them from reporting a crime. 

The country has witnessed a rash of recent sexual attacks that have heated up the debate even further and have caused widespread protests. The recent attacks have seen victims who are mostly children. One of the attacks was on an 8-year-old girl in January, who is from a Muslim nomadic community. The child had been kidnapped from a region in northern Jammu and was taken to a Hindu temple where she was drugged and gang-raped for days before finally succumbing to her injuries. This forced the hand of the government who introduced the death sentences for sexual attacks on children below the age of 12.

The number of people who have been sentenced to death in the past 10 years in India has exceeded 1,300. The country is 10th in the list when it comes to the number of sentences that have been handed out to attackers. India rejected a UN-sponsored moratorium plea on executions in 2007 while the country was debating the justice behind capital punishment. As of December 2017, more than 370 convicts were on death row in the country which is down from 399 in 2016. 

Many of these convicts, however, have been spared the harsh punishments after appealing in higher courts. 35 convicts were even acquited of their heinous crimes. From the 371 death row convicts from 2017, 43 of them were given the ultimate punishment for the gruesome sexual assaults that have been carried out on women. India as a country does not hang people very often.

Only 4 convicts have been executed in the last 25 years in the country. This included Dhananjoy Chatterjee in 2004 who raped and murdered a 14-year-old girl. The other three hanging took place in 2010, 2011, and 2015. These were all for acts of terrorism.