Gangrape sentence tomorrow

ProtestersProtesters heckle a defence lawyer addressing mediapersons in the Saket court complex on Wednesday

The special court that convicted the four accused in the December 16 gangrape case has reserved its order on the quantum of punishment for Friday.

In the course of arguments spread over nearly three hours on Wednesday, the prosecutor demanded the death penalty in order to assuage "society's conscience", while the counsel for defence sought mercy on grounds of the young age and extreme poverty of the convicts.

"Society today feels that no woman in this country is safe... Now it is up to the court to decide and change this," special prosecutor Dayan Krishnan said in conclusion to his arguments.

Advocate V K Anand, counsel for Mukesh Singh, the younger brother of alleged ringleader Ram Singh who was found dead in his Tihar cell in March, invoked the tragedy of the men's mother.

"Main iski ma ki taraf se aapse daya ki bheekh mangta hoon," Anand said.

"His mother has already lost a son. Like the victim's mother, she too is asking for justice." Besides, Anand argued, "Mukesh was driving the bus, how could he know what was happening?"

The defence lawyers submitted that all the accused could not be held equally liable. "Death penalty must relate to the criminal and not to the crime," argued Vivek Sharma, counsel for Pawan Gupta.

The four men Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur were seated in the last row behind a protective wall of policemen, and rose to their feet several times as the arguments progressed. Their families were not present in the court. The parents of the victim were present, and reacted visibly to the arguments being made in a mix of Hindi and English.

"Sentencing is a method to tell society that deviance is not tolerated," Krishnan said, adding that certain crimes needed to be punished for the sake of punishment, and not with the idea of deterring other criminals or reforming the convicts.

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