The six Indian men arrested for the brutal gang rape turned murder of a young 23-year-old female student are now facing the death penalty. India erupted in protests over the way the government handled the attack and over how the government handles sexual assaults in general.
Initially, Indian authorities called for long prison sentences and chemical castration of the alleged rapists. Earlier today the Indian authorities hadn’t mentioned the use of capital punishment against the alleged rapists.
The death penalty is extremely rare in India, and even when capital punishment is sentenced, it is rarely carried out. Only three people have been executed in India since 1995. One was the militant terrorist who survived the Mumbai terror attack, one raped and murdered a 14-year-old-girl, and the other was a serial killer.
The rarity of capital punishment in India is best highlighted in the article titled Capital Punishment in India, that states:
“The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1983 that the death penalty should be imposed only in "the rarest of rare cases." Capital crimes are murder, gang robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the nation, and abetting mutiny by a member of the armed forces. Since 1989, the death penalty has also been legal for a second offense of "large scale narcotics trafficking." In recent years the death penalty has been imposed under new anti-terrorism legislation for people convicted of terrorist activities.
Recently, the Supreme Court in Swamy Sharaddananda v. State of Karnataka made imposing the death penalty even harder. The judgment holds that the “rarest of the rare” test prescribed in Bachchan Singh’s case was diluted in the Machchi Singh case. The judgement then goes on to say that the “rarest of the rare” must be measured not only in qualitative but also in quantitative terms.
India's apex court has recommended the death penalty be extended to those found guilty of committing "honor killings" with the Supreme Court stating that honor killings fall within the "rarest of the rare" category and deserves to be a capital crime. The Supreme Court of India has also recommended death sentences to be awarded to those police officials who commit police brutality in the form of encounter killings.”
An excerpt from CBS News further illuminates the Indian peoples’ reactions to the tragedy.