As India waits with bated breath for a Delhi court to sentence four men who gang-raped a medical student in a moving bus in the Capital on December 16 last year, their lawyers on Wednesday stunned the nation by invoking Mahatma Gandhi and Gautam Buddha to plead for mercy for the quartet.
A fast track court convicted Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh on Tuesday for the heinous crime which led to outrage across the world.
“Daya karo maharaj (show some leniency). I pray for leniency on behalf of the convicts and their poor parents,” VK Anand, counsel for Mukesh, said while arguing before the court on Wednesday.
“We are a country that lives by the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Buddha. Gandhi said he did not believe in sending one to the gallows.”
The prosecution demanded the death penalty for all the four convicts, but the defence tried to pin the blame for the gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old student on Ram Singh, the prime accused in the case, who was found dead in his prison cell in March. Making a strong pitch for Mukesh to be awarded lenient punishment, VK Anand said: “Punish him for what he has done.
Don’t punish him for what he has not done. He was only driving the bus.”
AP Singh, lawyer for convicts Vinay and Akshay, also invoked Gandhi by saying: “God gives life and he alone can take it, not man-made courts.” The lawyer requested the court to give one last chance for the convicts so that they could reform themselves.
He said the court must consider the social ethos surrounding the convicts, who come from rural, uneducated backgrounds and are “sexually starved”.
Defence counsel Vivek Sharma, who appeared for Pawan Gupta, said his client did not deserve the death penalty. “This was only one stroke of murder. The court can grant him the death penalty only if it feels that the convicts have a chronic hunger for murder.
The convicts are not blood-thirsty tigers,” he said. “These people are not professional criminals. They are innocent. They don’t have a criminal record. Some of them were studying. They deserve one chance at reformation.”
Vinay Sharma’s lawyer argued that his client is a good student and has applied for a job in the air force. “He did not commit the crime. Death is irreversible; purpose of justice is reform and reconciliation.”
One of the defence lawyers argued: “Batla House accused got life; was let off due to politics, so why death for these rape accused now? Why parliamentarians accused in dacoity, rape and murder are not tried by fast-track courts? These people (rapists) are not professional criminals. They are innocent. They don’t have a criminal record. Some of them were studying. They deserve one chance at reformation.”