Hundreds of protesters have joined the parents of Jotyi Singh — formerly identified only as “Nirbhaya — in new Delhi, after an Indian court last week rejected a petition to keep the youngest of six men convicted of raping and murdering the 23-year old woman in detention.
The culprit was 17 at the time of the crime, which made him a minor in the eyes of Indian law and subject to a maximum punishment of three years. Now that he served his sentence, a court has ordered him to be released, despite efforts by the government to extend his sentence and to the dismay of activists and the victim’s parents. “If they understood my daughter’s pain, if they understood my pain, the culprit would not be free,” said Asha Singh, the victim’s mother, who recently revealed her daughter’s real name to be Jyoti Singh. “He deserves the same punishment as the four who’ve been given the death penalty. It should set a historic example in society that if you treat women and girls this way, no one will be spared,” she told CNN.
The Washington Post reports the perpetrator was released from the correctional home where he spent the past three years, and moved to a rehabilitation home where, an official said, he will undergo psychological rehabilitation, be given sewing work and be monitored.
With many in India echoing the parent’s sentiment that the culprit’s sentence was not in proportion to his crime, the Singhs are now calling on India to amend its juvenile justice laws. At the protest on Sunday near India’s famous Delhi Gate, the parents had gathered with other family and protesters, shouting slogans against central and Delhi governments. “How many more rapes, how many more murders will have to take place for the government to change laws related to juveniles?” Asha said at the protest. “I want [Prime Minister Narendra] Modiji to consider giving us two minutes (for a meeting).” According to the Times of India, police briefly detained Nirbhaya’s parents, along with several of the other protesters, saying they were not allowed to protest at this “high-security area”.
“In spite of all our efforts, the juvenile is free today,” said Badrinath Singh, the victim’s father, leading the protests. “I regret it deeply.” The crowd of protesters shouted, “Shame, shame,” while some held placards saying: “No exceptions, no excuses, hang the rapists” and “We have no faith in the judiciary.” Another sign said: “Incredible India. If you are 18, come, rape and walk away.”
The Supreme Court conducted an urgent hearing on Monday after the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) petitioned around midnight on Saturday against the 20-year-old’s release, saying his psychological well-being had not been conclusively proven. The plea was dismissed. “It is a black day for women in history of the country,” DCW chief Swati Maliwal told reporters outside the Supreme Court. “I also believe that the Rajya Sabha has cheated the country by keeping the law pending which could have facilitated stronger punishment for juveniles in heinous crimes,” she said, referring to the bill to amend the Juvenile Justice Act which remains stuck in the Rajya Sabha. The proposed amendment bill seeks stringent punishment for children aged 16-18 years involved in heinous crimes.