Indian protesters shout slogans demanding death sentence for the juveniles involved in a rape case, outside Delhi high court in New Delhi, India on Thursday. -EPA
NEW DELHI: An Indian court upheld Thursday the death penalty handed to four men convicted of the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi, an attack that shocked the country and sparked weeks of protests.
The High Court rejected an appeal by the four who were sentenced last year to hang following a trial over the attack on the 23-year-old student on a moving bus in the capital in December 2012.
"Our appeal has been dismissed by the high court," AP Singh, a lawyer for the four, told reporters outside the court in New Delhi.
"The death sentence of the four convicts has been upheld. We will go to the Supreme Court (to appeal further)," Singh said.
"This is a politically motivated decision," he added, claiming that the judges were under political pressure ahead of the country's general elections next month.
The physiotherapy student was attacked by six men, including with an iron rod, after she boarded a private bus while going home from the cinema with a male friend. They were both later dumped naked and bleeding on the roadside.
She died 13 days later from the internal injuries inflicted.
The brutality of the attack, and her determination to survive long enough to identify her attackers to police, triggered large-scale angry street protests as well as soul-searching about India's treatment of women.
The case led to tougher rape and sexual assault laws and shone an international spotlight on what women's groups called a "rape epidemic" in the country.
Four of her attackers were convicted last September after the case was fast-tracked, while a juvenile was sentenced to the maximum of three years in a detention centre. A sixth man was found dead in jail in a suspected suicide.
The student's mother, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, welcomed the decision, saying the family was "inching closer to justice".
"Complete justice will be delivered when all the convicts are hanged to death," she said outside the court.
"The juvenile accused should also get the same punishment," she said.
The father said he was "satisfied" with the result, adding that he too wanted them hanged.
A small crowd gathered outside the court chanted in favour of the death penalty, saying "the rapists should be hanged to death".
The court dismissed the men's appeal as well as confirmed the death penalty handed down by the trial court, after consideration. As part of Indian legal procedure, the High Court is required to review the death penalty delivered by a lower court.