Content warning: The following posts contains depictions of physical & sexual violence.
Rape cases are far too common and are overwhelmingly underreported around the globe. But one 2012 case, tragically referred to as the Delhi Gang Rape case, caused an international uproar that still has people talking today and serves as the premise for Netflix's new seven-part drama series, Delhi Crime. The series follows the aftermath of the assault, including the intense investigation that ultimately led to the conviction of six men who brutally raped and murdered a 23-year-old woman on a bus on December 16, 2012.
Delhi Crime Story taps into important themes like systemic sexism and sexual violence, ineffective bureaucratic policies, and a need for criminal justice reform. However, its calls for change, while valid, could never fully express the horrors the victim, often referred to as Nirbhaya ("the fearless one"), experienced that night or the turmoil her family has experienced every day since. For six years, their lives were dominated by grief and court hearings. It wasn't until 2018, when the Supreme Court refused a hearing to upend a death penalty sentence for four of the men, that Nirbhaya's family could finally feel a bit of peace.
Here, we've assembled a timeline some of the most pivotal moments from the case, from the horrific assault to the Supreme Court's final ruling.
Dec. 16, 2012: The assault against Jyoti Singh
Jyoti Singh (also referred to as Nirbhaya) and her friend, Awindra Pratap Pandey, boarded a bus after watching a film in south Delhi. Six men, including five passengers and the bus driver, locked the doors and attacked Pandey with their fists and an iron bar before physically and sexually assaulting Singh. The men took turns raping, beating, and biting Singh for approximately an hour.
Medical experts told the Hindustan Times that the men also penetrated Singh with an iron rod, rupturing her intestines and causing other major internal issues. Once they had finished, the men dumped Singh and Pandey on the side of the road. Singh managed to scrawl the words "I want to survive" on a piece of paper that she later handed to the police, according to The Guardian.
Both Singh and Pandey were rushed to the hospital.
Dec. 17-22, 2012: Authorities arrest the six assailants
Police quickly identified and arrested four of the men — Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, and Pawan Gupta — within 48 hours of the vicious assault. In the days that followed, they also picked up Akshay Thakur and an unnamed juvenile.
Three of the adult men confessed their guilt in a Delhi court on Dec. 19. "I admit to my crime. Hang me," Sharma said, according to NDTV. Pawan also admitted, "I have committed a big crime."
Dec. 22, 2012: Singh issues a statement to police
Singh gave an official statement detailing the sexual assault to authorities from her hospital bed.
"The conductor closed the doors of the bus. He closed the lights of the bus and came towards my friend and started abusing and beating him," she told police, according to The Guardian. "They held his hands and held me and took me to the back of the bus. They tore my clothes and raped me in turns. They hit me with an iron rod and bit me on my entire body with their teeth."
Singh said the men also stole her personal belongings, including her phone and credit card.
"Six people raped me in turns for nearly one hour in a moving bus. The driver of the bus kept changing so that he could also rape me," she added.
Dec. 26, 2012 - Singh is transferred to a hospital in Singapore
Singh's condition continued to worsen in Delhi, and officials within the Indian High Commission made the decision to transfer her to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for more intensive treatment. A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed that Singh arrived "in an extremely critical condition" and that doctors would do everything they could to replace her damaged organs, The Indian Express reported.
Her family joined her as well.
Dec. 29, 2012: Singh dies while receiving treatment in Singapore
Singh's internal injuries were too severe to repair, and she died as a result of organ failure just three days after she arrived at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, The New York Times reported. Her death prompted enormous protests throughout the country as millions mourned and demanded political criminal justice reforms, including strengthened sexual violence legislation.
That day, all six of the men were charged with murder.
Jan. 2, 2013: India initiates Fast-Track Court to deal with rape cases
After intense public pressure former Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir decided to initiate a Fast-Track Court (FTC) for the Delhi Gang Rape trial. FTCs were established to combat crime backlogs and give precedence to urgent cases, many of which involve sexual violence, in India.
"I, on my part, will try my level best that the part of the case on the administration side is taken care of and things are done ... in a fashion where the things can be brought to the court as expeditiously as possible," Kabir said, according to Outlook India.
Jan. 3, 2013: Public prosecutor delivers charges
The five adult assailants were officially charged with rape and murder hours after CJI Kabir initiated the Fast-Track Court. The sixth perpetrator, a juvenile, would be charged separately. The adults now faced the possibility of death penalty sentences.
Jan. 21-24, 2013: Fast-Track Court trial begins
On Jan. 28, the Juvenile Justice Board officially ruled that the accused juvenile is, in fact, a minor and took over his case. Rather than death, the maximum sentence he could face was three years in a correction facility.
Feb. 2, 2013: The adults deny guilt
The five adult men — Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, and Akshay Thakur — plead "not guilty" to 13 charges, including rape and murder, The New York Times reported.
Feb. 3, 2013: India strengthens sexual assault laws
Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee signed a number of new laws to support victims and survivors of sexual violence, including one that approved of the death penalty for rape cases that result in death, The New York Times reported. While the laws were a good start, many women noted that the government didn't go far enough to protect victims and survivors, pointing out that legislators failed to address marital rape, amongst other abhorrent acts.
Mar. 11, 2013: Ram Singh commits suicide
Aug. 31, 2013: Juvenile Justice Board convicts the accused minor
The JJB convicted the youngest assailant and sentenced him to three years in a reform home. Many, including Jyoti Singh's parents, argued the punishment wasn't harsh enough and that the minor should have been tried as an adult.
"He should be hanged irrespective of whether he is a juvenile or not," Asha Devi, Singh's mother, told reporters, according to USA Today. "He should be punished for what he did to my daughter.
Sept. 10, 2013: Fast-Track Court finds the adult men guilty
After months of trials and hearings, FTC Judge Yogesh Khanna found the four remaining adults — Singh, Sharma, Gupta, and Thakur — guilty.
"I convict all of the accused," he said, according to The Guardian. "They have been found guilty of gang rape, unnatural offenses, destruction of evidence... and for committing the murder of the helpless victim."
Three days later, the FTC awarded death penalty sentences to all four men. The case is then passed off to the Delhi High Court, which further analyzed sentencing and appeals.
Mar. 13, 2014: The Delhi High Court upholds the death penalty sentence
Despite the men's appeals, the Delhi High Court upheld the death penalty sentences. The ruling delighted Singh's brother who told CNN he and his family "are quite happy with the decision."
"It will change some things in India," he added. "It will lead to a good change in India."
Other commenters told CNN that India, historically, reserved the death penalty for extremely rare cases and that public outrage, in addition to the egregious nature of the crime, may have impacted the verdict.
Some of the men appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court.
Mar. 1, 2015: One of the men blames the assault on Singh
Mukesh Singh told reporters that Jyoti Singh, who died in 2012 less than two weeks after her attack, had been responsible for her own death.
"A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," he said, according to the U.K.'s Telegraph. Like others before him, Singh claimed the victim had invited the attack due to her clothing and appearance. He also claimed she'd still be alive if she hadn't resisted.
"When being raped, she shouldn't fight back," he added. "She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they'd have dropped her off after 'doing her' and only hit the boy."
Dec. 18, 2015: Reform home releases juvenile
After the Delhi High Court approved the juvenile's release, he went on to live a fairly normal life. India Today reported that as of 2017 he worked as a cook outside of the city under a new name. A non-governmental organization (NGO) works to protect his identity.
May 5, 2017: Supreme Court upholds death penalty verdict for the four adults
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the death penalty for Singh, Sharma, Gupta, and Thakur, after a year of hearing appeals from the men.
"The casual manner with which [Singh] was treated and the devilish manner in which they played with her identity and dignity is humanly inconceivable," two of the Justices said, according to Economic Times. "It sounds like a story from a different world where humanity has been treated with irreverence."
July 9, 2018: The Supreme Court refuses to grant the men clemency
Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, three of the men still petitioned for clemency. In 2018, the Supreme Court rejected their appeals and upheld its decision to sentence all four of the men to death.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).