New Delhi: In one of the most talked about cases in India's history, a fast track court in South Delhi held all four accused in the case guilty on more than ten charges including rape and murder. Arguments on sentencing will begin on Wednesday after which the court will declare the quantum of punishment.
The victim's brother and mother were in tears as the additional sessions judge Yogesh Khanna started reading out the operative part of the judgment at 12.30 pm. They avoided talking to selected reporters who were inside the court room and left soon after the announcement of the verdict.
The family of two of the accused, Ram Singh and Mukesh, also witnessed the proceedings in the court, but refused to talk to the press. The case against Ram Singh was abated, after he was found dead in his prison cell in Tihar Central Jail, shortly after the trial began. However Mukesh was found guilty.
Journalists from national, international and regional media queued up outside the Saket court complex since early morning as the initial reports had suggested that the verdict would be delivered at 10.30 am.
VK Anand, the lawyer for Mukesh said he would move the High Court. "My client is innocent. There is evidence to prove that he was not at the spot when the crime is said to have taken place," he said.
Many activists who were demanding justice for the gangrape victim said they felt vindicated. "The fast track court has set a precedent in such cases. Instead of dragging it for years, the verdict is out in around nine months. Out faith in the judiciary has been restored," said Denson Joseph of Jagruk nagrik Suraksha Sangathan, one of the organisations that conducted protests after the gangrape.
Members of a group called "16 December kraanti" also demanded capital punishment for the guilty.
Even as the accused were found guilty by the court of law, not much has changed on the ground, said those who closely observed the developments which followed the tragedy. "There were numerous protests soon after the gangrape. But that did not translate into real change. The response mechanism of the agencies remains to be lax," said Akshit Manocha, a researcher associate with India Institute, a Delhi based think tank who was outside the court complex.
The 16 December gangrape prompted debate on lack of safety of women and the justice delivery mechanism. It lead to the passage of Criminal Amendment Act 2013. The union government established "Nirbhaya Fund" to finally help women in distress.
The Juvenile justice Act, under which the juvenile accused are tried also came under scrutiny as one the accused in the gangrape case was a minor. A juvenile justice board sent him to a reformatory home for three years earlier this month.
The victim, a 23-year-old paramedical student, succumbed to her injuries in a hospital in Singapore.