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Indian Christians divided on death sentence

India's top court confirmed capital punishment for those responsible of an infamous rape murder

ucanews.com reporters, New Delhi

ucanews.com reporters, New Delhi

Published: May 08, 2017 10:07 AM GMT

Updated: May 08, 2017 10:27 AM GMT

Indian Christians divided on death sentence

After the Supreme Court of India upheld death sentences of four men convicted of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman, her parents participated in a candlelit vigil in New Delhi on May 5. (Photo by IANS)

Social activists and church leaders in India are divided on the death sentence for four men convicted of gang raping a student on a moving bus in New Delhi in 2012.

The Supreme Court on May 5 upheld the original decision by a New Delhi city court in 2013. The court described their crime as "savage lust." 

The four men: Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur were convicted by the court in 2013 of repeatedly raping the 23-year-old victim and assaulting her with an iron pipe and later dumping her at a street corner.

The victim died of her injuries two weeks later at a hospital in Singapore where she had been transferred.

Six men were involved in the crime. They were found guilty on 13 counts by the city court including murder, rape and destruction of evidence.

One of them, Ram Singh, died in jail during the trial period. Another convict was a juvenile when he committed the crime and was released in 2015 after serving a brief sentence at a correctional facility.

The intensity of the incident led to an outrage across the country, forcing the federal government to make the law against more rape stringent, changing the maximum punishment from 10 years in jail to the death penalty.

Divided opinion

Ranjana Kumari, a women's activist, told ucanews.com that the verdict was "historic" and it would "send a message to all the people that the mindset that wrongs women is criminal."

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Jyotsana Chatterjee, director of the Church of North India's Joint Women's Program, told ucanews.com that the verdict was justified. However, she lamented the juvenile convicted in the case who got off with a lesser sentence.

"I met him in the juvenile home and he had absolutely no feeling of remorse that he had done something wrong. He was quite happy with what he did," she said.

A.C. Michael, a former member of the minorities' commission, told ucanews.com that he favored the judgment. "Even though the church is against capital punishment in this case it could be justified given the brutality of the crime," Michael, a Catholic, told ucanews.com.

However, Father Savari Muthu Shankar, spokesperson for Delhi Archdiocese, said the verdict reflected "public sentiments" and the convicts could have "been given a chance to reform themselves."

"There is nothing wrong in giving a person a chance to reform," he said reiterating the Catholic Church's stand against capital punishment.

Samuel Jaikumar, an official of the National Council of Churches in India, told ucanews.com that "some harsh punishment was needed" in the case but "not death."

"There is no doubt about the brutality shown by convicts in this case toward the victim and they needed very harsh punishment but not death. They should have been given a chance to reform," he said.

On an average more than 95 women are raped in India every day, according to the federal government's National Crime Records Bureau. In 2015, police registered more than 34,000 complaints regarding rape and 84,000 women filed sexual harassment cases.

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