New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the death penalty of two convicts for the horrific gangrape and murder of a medical student in a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012.
Two convicts Vinay and Akshay had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court upheld the death sentence given by a trial court.
The apex Court had already stayed the sentence of other two death row convicts – Mukesh and Pawan.
The court proceedings also witnessed some confusion as the bench queried whether it could hear the plea in the light of observation made by Chief Justice R M Lodha that the cases of death convicts be heard by not less than three-judge bench.
The bench called for Supreme Court registrar who said no such notification has been issued so far in this regard. The bench then went ahead with the hearing and passed the stay order.
Mukesh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan and Akshay Thakur were given the capital punishment by the lower court in September 2013, satisfying a public clamour for them to be hanged for a crime that forced India to confront its culture of violence against women.
The victim, who was raped for an hour and tortured with an iron rod on a moving bus, became a symbol of the dangers women face in a country where a rape is reported on average every 21 minutes and acid attacks and cases of molestation are common.
India is struggling to curb violence against women.
Social commentators say patriarchal attitudes towards women have not been diluted by more than a decade of rapid economic growth. Reports of rape, dowry deaths, molestation, sexual harassment and other crimes against women rose by 6.4 percent in 2012 from the previous year, the government said.
On the night of December 16, 2012, Ram Singh, Vinay, Akshay, Pawan, Mukesh and a juvenile had gangraped the girl in a bus after luring her and her 28-year-old male friend, who was also assaulted, on board the vehicle, which was later found to be plying illegally on Delhi roads.
The girl succumbed to her injuries on December 29, 2012 in a Singapore hospital.
Ram Singh, who was the prime accused, was found dead in his cell in Tihar Jail in March last year and the proceedings against him were abated.
The sixth accused, the juvenile was on August 31, 2013 convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home by the Juvenile Justice Board.