It has been more than three years since that dreadful rape and fatal assault of a 23 years old girl took place in Delhi on the night of 16th December, 2012. The degree of brutality inflicted on the victim by the wild animals in human form had shaken the society to the roots. Thirteen days after the assault, on 20th December, she finally succumbed to her grievous injuries and breathed her last at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Her body was flown back to Delhi in the early hours of the next day. I still remember watching the news report on her homecoming that morning standing still in front of my television with tears rolling down my face.

I can’t describe the agony I felt in my body and my soul. I almost stopped reading newspapers and watching news channels. I also distanced myself from any discussion on the subject that might have been taking place in my surroundings during those days just to avoid catching any unpleasant remark (like the ones made by the uncouth defence lawyers in the matter) that might cause further heartache and emotional distress. My eyes still get wet and my heart still aches when I think of the incident and feel the pain and anguish of the parents, whose loving daughter was subjected to such cruelty at the hands of some bestial barbarians. 

The outward silence I was maintaining was agonizing me further, and to give vent to my enraged heart, I tried to put my feelings in ink more than once, but the overwhelming pain I felt each time, just at the thought of the incident, stopped me from going any further than writing a few lines. Even if time doesn’t heal all wounds, it certainly reduces the pain we feel; and here I am again sitting with my laptop on at the dead of the night putting my mind in words.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The prime accused in the matter Ram Singh, the driver of the bus in which the young woman was brutalized, reportedly committed suicide inside Tihar Jail using the clothes he was wearing to hang himself on March 11, 2013. His defence lawyer, however, alleged ‘foul play’ stating that there were no circumstances for his client to have committed suicide. Even if his apprehension was correct, one could only be grateful for the befitting punishment (self-inflicted or otherwise) meted out to the prime accused as the same, to some extent, healed the wounded hearts seeking justice.

One of the accused, a juvenile (seventeen years and nine months old at the time of his arrest) was tried under the Juvenile Justice Act and was awarded a sentence of three years (maximum under the Act), which was nothing more than a slap on the wrist considering the heinous nature of the crime committed by him. Despite huge public outcry against his release, the so called ‘juvenile’ walked free on December 20, 2015 after the High Court refused to intervene in the matter much to the disappointment of the civil society.

The rest of the accused were tried in a fast-track court and were found guilty of rape and murder and were later sentenced to death by hanging, which was upheld by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi on March 13, 2014.

It has almost been two years since then and the matter is still pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court; and by each passing day, somewhere inside, my apprehension about the convicts being spared the gallows is growing. The reason is – our criminal justice system which appears to be too soft on criminals, especially those involved in heinous crimes – so much so that sometimes it gives an impression that all the laws in the world are made to safeguard the ‘human rights’ of these inhuman beings, who apparently have least regard for the life and dignity of others. Instead of showing remorse for the barbaric action, the way one of the convicts Mukesh Singh put the blame on the victim before camera, in a documentary film ‘India’s Daughter’ by Leslee Udwin, only goes to show that such shameless creatures do not deserve to live in a civilized society. 

It’s so excruciating to see the ‘system’ putting all its efforts and energy in protecting the rights of these criminals, seemingly closing its eyes to the fact that the innocent victim too had some rights – the right to live with dignity, protection of which was to be ensured by this very system. This failure on the part of the system becomes more agonizing when we see it working so enthusiastically to protect the rights of these subhuman creatures. In the instant case, one of the convicts (a juvenile by age) was not only let off with mild punishment in the absence of adequate provisions in the law, but means of his livelihood, post his release, was also ensured, rubbing salt on the wounds of the bereaved family of the victim in particular and the society as a whole. 

My apprehension about these four convicts being spared the gallows gets stronger when I grope around for a plausible reason behind the inordinate delay caused in execution of Surinder Koli, a cannibal serial killer, guilty of raping and killing several children and young women at a bungalow in Nithari Village, where he was working as a domestic help, which ultimately led to commutation of his death sentence into life imprisonment. One could have understood had Koli been a powerful, influential person, but for a literally ‘subhuman’ creature (who had confessed to have had sex with his dead victims and had also eaten their body parts), with no money or muscle power or, for that matter, having any political clout, why did the ‘system’ take that long dealing with his mercy application to have given him the sole vital ground to appeal in his defence – the ‘inordinate delay’ caused in the matter, which ultimately led to commutation of his death sentence, is not understandable. I may sound a bit unreasonable, but in absence of any plausible reason as to why this man was ‘favoured’, I would only say there must have been some elements in the ‘system’, at various stages of the case, that actually sympathized with Koli, for the reasons best known to them. Under such state of affairs, we could only hope and pray that similar favour is not extended to these four ‘animals’ who deserve no leniency – otherwise God knows how many Nirbhayas would face such gruesome end to their lives in the times to come.

Post Script : Justice was finally served and all four men, convicted for the brutal assault, were hanged to death on 20th March, 2020 at Delhi’s Tihar Jail.