A Delhi judge on Tuesday issued the black warrant to execute the four men who raped and tortured the 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a cold December night in 2012. They shall be hanged at 7 am on January 22, the court ordered.
The victim's mother said the black warrant and the execution of the four convicts will empower women and "strengthen the trust of people in the judicial system".
The black warrant, formally called the 'warrant of execution of a sentence of death, would, however, be put on hold or cancelled if the convicts exercise their right to appeal or file a mercy petition.
The court has given the convicts 14 days to use their legal remedies that could include a curative petition in the Supreme Court or a mercy plea to the President.
The trial court had delivered its guilty verdict within a year of the young para-medic student's brutal gang-rape that had provoked nationwide outrage and led to the first overhaul of the country's rape laws in years. But it was much later that the high court confirmed the death penalty.
In 2017, the Supreme Court rejected the first set of appeals against the conviction.
Judge Satish Kumar Arora issued the warrant at the request of the police and the victim's mother who had celebrated the top court's 2017 verdict rejecting an appeal against the death sentence as "justice" at last.
Still waiting for the four men to be sent to the gallows two years later, the victim's mother was in tears last month when judge Satish Kumar Arora deferred the case, indicating that he wanted to wait for the mercy petition filed by one of the four convicts to be decided first.
At Tuesday's hearing, he had heard the public prosecutor argue that the black warrant could be issued even before the convicts exercise their legal options. The suggestion that the court should wait for petitions to be filed by the convicts and decided was a delaying tactic, the public prosecutor argued.
After the December hearing, jail authorities had issued a notice to the convicts on December 18 - Akshay, Vinay, Pawan and Mukesh - who are on the death row for the gang-rape.
One of the six accused who were on the bus on which the woman was raped got off lightly because he was not an adult. Another allegedly committed suicide in jail. The remaining four were convicted and sentenced to death.
Three of them had filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against their execution, which was rejected last year. As Tihar jail authorities started preparing for their execution, the fourth convict filed a review petition in the Supreme Court which was rejected.