India has been reluctant to execute its citizens. Its last execution was of Yakub Memon, a convicted terrorist, in 2015. A huge percentage of the more than 2,000 death sentences imposed in the past two decades have been overturned or commuted by higher courts, a recent study found.
But in the Nirbhaya case, there was enormous pressure on the courts and the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to show no mercy. The four convicts had tried everything to avoid the hanging, filing petition after petition.
One of the convicts even tried, in vain, to use New Delhi’s pollution problem as an argument not to hang him. “Everyone is aware of what is happening in Delhi NCR in regard water and air,” said the petition filed by Mr. Kumar in December. “Life is short to short, then why death penalty?”
The family of Mr. Gupta, one of the youngest of the convicted men, had tried to argue for a lesser sentence because the family contended he was a juvenile at the time of the crime. One juvenile was convicted in the case and sentenced to three years in a reform facility; he has since been freed.
Mr. Gupta’s family produced a school certificate that said he was 16 in 2012 but the courts have consistently rejected the claims. Still, judges granted several delays of the execution to allow all appeals and mercy petitions to be exhausted.
In recent weeks, as it became clear the courts were losing patience, Mr. Gupta’s mother, Indira Devi, who works at the same small stand selling grapes, apples, cherries and oranges as her son had, said she didn’t have the strength to talk to her son anymore.
“It’s nearing the end and still no one listens to us,” she said.
On the night of the attack, Dec. 16, 2012, the physiotherapy intern and a male friend were leaving a mall in New Delhi after watching the film “Life of Pi.” A private bus, mostly empty, offered them a ride.