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Death Sentence In Nirbhaya Case Hinged Heavily On One Aspect Of The Case

Unforgivable brutality.

06/05/2017 10:52 AM IST | Updated 06/05/2017 11:22 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA DECEMBER 29: Mother of Nirbhaya, the victim of a fatal gang-rape in a moving bus on December 16, 2012, at a gathering on her daughter's third death anniversary on December 29, 2015 at Raj Ghat in New Delhi.

In a judgment that is over 400 pages long, the Supreme Court recounted the events of 16 December, 2012, the aftermath of the incident of gangrape, the investigation, forensic evidence and rejected the argument made by the defence counsels in favour of overturning the death sentences awarded to four convicts.

The defence counsel had contested the claim that the victim had been violated with an iron rod, which is believed to have caused grievous injuries which ultimately led to her death. It was argued by the defence that the prosecution had fabricated the bit about the rod to frame their clients in the death of the victim. They based their argument on the fact that in the first statement that the victim gave, she had failed to mention the rod, though she had mentioned the same in the subsequent statements.

Rejecting that, the court said that when she was brought into the hospital, she was traumatized, had lost a lot of blood, was 'cold and clammy'. They added that it is understandable that a girl who had just gone through such a terrifying experience is unable to narrate everything cohesively.

It was also argued by the defence that the finger prints of the accused were not found on the rod. The court reasoned that blood stains found on the rod matched with the DNA of the victim and not finding finger prints from the rods that late accused Ram Singh himself led the police to, is not convincing proof.

The defence also argued that the witness -- the victim's friend in this case -- couldn't confirm if she was violated with a rod. To which the court said: "We find it difficult to comprehend as to how PW-1 could have been aware of any use of iron rods against the prosecutrix. PW-1 was being held by the accused towards the front of the bus, while the prosecutrix was being raped at the rear side of the bus and the lights of the bus also had been turned off. His statement in his complaint, Ex.PW-1/A, that he heard the prosecutrix shouting and crying and that her voice was oscillating is consistent with the narration of facts as also the medical records."

The defence also argued that the insertion of the rod could not have taken place as medical reports suggested that the victim's uterus was found to be in the place it was supposed to be it and was unharmed. The court rejected the suggestion that since the doctors who performed surgeries on her didn't find her uterus to be damaged,it must mean no rod was inserted. The court said, "The aforesaid submission can be singularly rejected without much discussion on the foundation that a question to that effect was not put to the doctors in their respective cross-examinations."

Following that, the judgment goes into great details to reject the defence counsels' claims that the prosecution had fabricated the use of rods. Dismantling the claim that just because the victim's uterus was unharmed it means her dying declaration about how she was raped stands falsified, the apex court quoted extensively from 'Gray's Anatomy: Descriptive and Applied', 34th 165 Edn. [Orient Longman Publication]. The excerpts describe the placement of the uterus, vagina, intestines and other organs inside an adult woman's body.

Following that, the court refers to notes made by doctors at the Operation Theatre, one of which said: "the condition of the small and large bowel extremely bad for any definitive repair". The judgment goes on to list out the observations the doctors made about the state of her intestines, colon, vagina, rectal passage -- all of which were grievously ripped and torn.

It then lists out the surgical procedures that were performed -- 11 to be precise -- in an attempt to fix her ravaged body.

Then, based on the nature of surgeries, the post-mortem report and the book, the court concluded that the defence's argument bears no weight. In fact, the judges didn't stop at that. They judges cut the defence to size by commenting on the ridiculousness of even having made that argument in the first place. They said, "Thus, the submission that has been raised with immense enthusiasm and ambition to create a concavity in the case of the prosecution on this score deserves to be repelled and we do so."

In fact, the word iron rod appears in 104 places in the judgment, indicating that the violence inflicted with it could have played a decisive role in the court upholding the convicts' death sentence. Every time the judges refers to the incidents of the night -- through out the judgment -- they don't just stop at the mention of the rape. They add that she was violated with the rod, left to die and the rapists even attempted to kill her and her friend. In the concluding portion of the judgment, where the court explains why they did not consider that the rapists worthy of rehabilitation or even the right to life, it is clear that the brutality of the act was what convinced them in favour of death penalty. Noting that the men exhibited 'human lust' in 'demonic form', they concluded that the convicts seemed to be unfamiliar with "not only to the norms of the society, but also to the norms of humanity".

You can read the full judgment here.

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