The four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case were hanged at 5:30 am on Friday, more than seven years after committing the heinous crime in which a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was brutally gang-raped in a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012, and thrown on the road to die.
The woman died of internal injuries nearly two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
There were six men who had committed the crime, but Ram Singh, the bus driver, committed suicide and a juvenile accused was released after spending three years in a reform home.
The crime shook the nation, drew international attention and led to passage of stringent laws against rape. The men accused of the crime were convicted within a year - and death sentence upheld by Supreme Court in 2017 - but its execution took painfully long as year after year, the lawyers representing these men took advantage of the legal remedies available to convicts to delay their hanging.
The road to the gallows was full of setbacks for the family of the victim, but her parents continued with the legal battle to see the culprits hanged. "The biggest victory would be when they are hanged," the woman's mother said during the course of the trial which saw four death warrants in about two months.
The families of the convicts, meanwhile, kept pleading that the legal system should show some mercy and commute their death sentences into life. Some family members also claimed that these convicts are "innocent". As the final petition was rejected on Thursday, the wife of one of the convicts fainted outside the Delhi court.
The four convicts - fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, unemployed Mukesh Singh, bus cleaner Akshay Thakur and gym instructor Vinay Sharma - reached the President's doorsteps multiple times with requests for mercy, and filed petitions in Supreme Court against their conviction. But all the petitions and requests were rejected.
Timeline of a crime that horrified India
Dec 16, 2012: Paramedical student gang-raped and brutally assaulted by six men in a private bus and thrown out of the moving vehicle along with her male friend. The victim is admitted to Safdarjung Hospital.
This is what happened that night:
• The woman and her friend reached Munirka Bus Stand at 9 pm in an auto-rickshaw after watching Life of Pi at a movie theatre in south Delhi's Saket
• They could not find any public transport to return home from there. So, they boarded a private bus
• The victim and her friend saw four men in the driver's cabin and two sitting behind the cabin—one on the left and another on the right side
• They sat next to each other on the left side on the second seat in the bus and paid a fare of Rs 20
• As the bus reached the flyover near the airport, three of them came out of the cabin. Two of them started abusing the woman's friend and asked him where he was taking her late in the evening
• One of them hit the victim's friend who tried fighting back. Soon, two others joined in beating him with iron rods lying in the bus
• As the victim came forward to save her friend, two of the assailants pushed her to the back seat
• The victim's friend was caught and beaten and the other assailants took their turn to rape her
• In their brutal act, the convicts damaged her internal organs using an iron rod
• The assailants also robbed both the victims
• They then tried to throw both the victims out of the moving bus from its rear door but it did not open. They then brought them in the front and pushed them out of the moving bus on National Highway 8 near Mahipalpur flyover
• Both of them were later spotted by the passersby who informed the police
• The passersby also brought sheets to cover them. They were then rushed to Safdarjung Hospital.
Dec 17: Widespread protests erupt demanding stringent action against the accused.
Police identify the accused - bus driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh SIngh, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta.
Dec 18: Ram Singh and three others arrested.
Dec 20: Victim's friend testifies.
Dec 21: Juvenile nabbed from Anand Vihar bus terminal in Delhi. Victim's friend identifies Mukesh as one of the culprits. Police conduct raids in Haryana and Bihar to nab the sixth accused, Akshay Thakur.
Dec 21-22: Thakur arrested in Aurangabad district of Bihar and brought to Delhi. Victim records statement before the SDM in hospital.
Dec 23: Protesters defy prohibitory orders, take to the streets and clash with police. Delhi Police Constable Subhash Tomar rushed to hospital with serious injuries.
Dec 29: The victim dies in a hospital in Singapore after battling serious internal injuries. Protests erupt across India, calling out government indifference, gaps in law-enforcement and rising sexual crimes against women.
Jan 17, 2013: A fast-track court begins proceedings against the five men and one juvenile in the case.
March 11, 2013: Ram Singh, one of the main accused in the case and the driver of the bus, is found hanging in his prison cell.
April 2, 2013: A tough new anti-rape law is passed, making stalking a crime and introducing the death sentence for convicted rapists.
September 2013: The fast-track court sentences all four adult men to death in the case. The juvenile accused is remanded to a three-year term in a detention center and is released in 2015, after serving his term.
May 5, 2017: India's Supreme Court upholds the death penalty of the four remaining convicts. The men file review petitions challenging the order.
Jan 17, 2020: Indian President Ram Nath Kovind rejects their pleas for mercy.
March 20, 2020: The four men are hanged at dawn in New Delhi's Tihar prison.