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2012 December 16, 9 pm

Vasant Vihar, Delhi

On that fateful day, the young physiotherapy student was waiting to catch a bus home. Mistaking it for a routine bus service, she and her friend got into a bus that stopped for them. The six men in the bus brutalised her for 40 minutes before throwing her off with her friend near a flyover at Mahipalpur.

2012 December 17

The police go through CCTV footage to identify four suspects. The girl had suffered severe damage to her uterus and intestine, the doctors said.

Protests engulf the country

As the victim clung to her life amid indescribable agony in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, the country rose in prayers and protest. The horrific crime sparked an unprecedented public outrage that shook the centres of power. The issue was raised in the Parliament. Meanwhile, the police arrested all accused, including Ram Singh, the prime accused. The government constituted the Usha Mehra Commission to probe the crime. 'Nirbhaya', as she came to be identified in the media, was flown to Singapore for expert treatment.

December 29, 2:15 am

Nirbhaya dies in the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

The devils on the bus

Bus driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma were arrested on December 18. Within four days after the incident, the police arrested the other two – Akshay Thakur and a minor.

  • ram-singh delhi

    Ram Singh (34) – The Mad

    The 33-year-old bus driver was the leader of the gang. A resident of Ravidas Camp in R K Puram’s Sector 3 in South Delhi, he had been previously accused in several criminal cases. His perversion earned him the nickname of "Mad Man" among friends. His cruelty increased after his wife's death, friends said.

  • mukesh singh delhi

    Mukesh Singh (33)

    The 30-year-old is the younger brother of Ram Singh. He had no contacts with his family except Ram Singh. He stood in for Ram Singh when the latter took leave from his driving duties. He was driving the bus when the others raped the girl. He was also accused of destruction of evidence. He was caught from Rajasthan, where he had gone into hiding after the assault.

  • pavan gupta delhi

    Pawan Gupta (26) Kaalu

    The 23-year-old man lived in R K Puram’s Sector 3 along with his parents, who eked out a living by selling fruits. He used to run a juice shop in Sector 1. A school dropout, Gupta had earlier worked with Ram Singh as a bus cleaner.

  • vinay sharma delhi

    Vinay Sharma (27)

    The only educated one among the accused. He was pursuing B.Com degree from the Indira Gandhi National Open University even as he worked as a gym instructor in Siri Fort. He lived with his parents at Ravidas Camp. His father Hari Ram worked as a cleaner at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

  • Akshay thakur delhi

    Akshay Thakur (35)

    The 32-year-old came from Aurangabad in Bihar. He worked as a cleaner and conductor in Ram Singh's bus. He was caught from his native village in Aurangabad. He has two children. His wife, Punita Devi, wanted him to be shot dead if proven guilty.

  • Akshay thakur delhi

    The minor

    The youngest of the accused hailed from a poor family in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh. He left his family when he was 11 years old. He went to Delhi. He had never seen his family again. He used to work with bus drivers at the Interstate Bus Terminus at Anand Vihar. He later ended up with Ram Singh. He was the one who ushered in the victim and her friend to the bus at Munirka. He was 17 years and six months old then.

  • January 17
    The judicial proceedings start in a fast-track court. The minor’s trial is shifted to a juvenile justice court.
  • March 11
    Main accused Ram Singh committed suicide in Tihar Jail while in judicial custody.
  • August 31
    August 31: The cruelest of the accused, as per the police, was also the youngest. The Juvenile Justice Board found him guilty and sent him to a correction centre. He was released in December 2015 but transferred to a rehabilitation centre run by an agency. His whereabouts are kept secret.
    The light punishment meted out to him sparked more outrage. The clamour for a change in laws concerning juvenile delinquents was raised. Parliament amended the Juvenile Justice Act in December 2015, providing for normal trials (as adults) of persons aged between 16 and 18 when the crime committed by the accused is heinous. The term 'juvenile' was changed to 'child in conflict with law.'
  • September 13
    The fast-track court sentenced the four accused to death. The high court approves the capital punishment on March 13, 2014. The Supreme Court approves the punishment on May 5, 2017. The court dismissed a review petition on December 18, 2019.

Unending controversies

The pending execution of the convicts in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case has snowballed into a political controversy. Though the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party sought to blame each other for the delay in hanging the four men, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal found himself in a difficult spot when the father of the victim blamed him. The BJP and the Congress hooked themselves to the sensitive charge. In response, Kejriwal argued in favour of amending laws to ensure that the convicts are hanged within six months.

The legal loopholes

Though the Patiala House Court had issued death warrants on January 22, February 1 and March 3, those had to be nixed because various petitions were pending. The accused, meanwhile, approached the International Court of Justice for a stay on their execution, but to no avail. They raised a slew of arguments, claiming that they were misled by their advocates and that they were the victims of a conspiracy among the central government, state governments and the amicus curie. One of the accused, Pawan Gupta, claimed that he was a minor at the time of the crime. Another one, Vinay Sharma, said that he was becoming so schizophrenic that he could not even recognise his own mother.
Their review petitions and curative pleas were rejected by the Supreme Court. With the rejection of the last mercy plea, the execution is expected to happen on March 20. Execution has to wait for 14 days after the rejection of the mercy plea.

The death Warrant

The convicts were hanged at 5:30am in the morning on March 20, seven years after the horrific crime that shook the nation.