The four Indian men convicted of viciously raping and murdering a woman aboard a bus were sentenced today to death by a New Delhi court. The defendants were found guilty on Tuesday after a long trial that has captivated all of India. The December incident sparked massive outpourings of people in the streets demanding tougher laws on sexual violence and frequently clashing with police. Today's announcement elicited cheers outside the courthouse by a crowd that has regularly gathered to follow the proceedings. For some of them, the sentence could not have been more welcome. Protesters have brandished nooses and chanted "hang the rapists" for days.
The capital sentence is not one routinely meted out in India. In fact, the Indian government claims that only 52 people have been executed since India became independent in 1947. (That figure, however, is under serious debate.) The New York Times notes that there are currently 477 people on death row in India, but only three have been executed in last nine years. Most death sentences are commuted to life imprisonment instead.
And the sentence itself is hardly set in stone. It must first be confirmed by India's High Court, after which four men may appeal their sentence even higher up on the judiciary ladder. (NYTimes)