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Citation (2017) 6 SCC 1
Date of Judgment May 5, 2017
CourtSupreme Court of India
Case TypeCriminal appellee 
AppellantMukesh & Anr 
RespondentState For NCT of Delhi & Ors.
BenchChief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice R Banumathi and Justice Ashok Bhushan
ReferredSECTION 375 IPC (RAPE)


Rape is a grave and prevalent crime worldwide, receiving varying degrees of media attention. No territory allows forgiveness for the accused in such cases, and countries have diverse approaches to punishing rapists. India, for instance, grants the accused an opportunity to defend themselves, aligning with principles of justice and due process. However, this can lead to delays in justice delivery.

The Nirbhaya case (Mukesh & Anr v. State for NCT of Delhi & Ors) stands out among significant rape cases in India. The incident occurred on December 16, 2012, and the verdict was delivered on September 15, 2017, resulting in a lengthy legal process of five years. Such delays raise concerns about the efficacy of India’s rape prevention measures. Although the country has stringent rape laws, the implementation can hinder progress, as swift and severe punishments are essential deterrents to curb such crimes.

The judgment, passed in 2017 and implemented in 2020, received widespread approval, even during the challenges of the COVID pandemic. However, such delays can weaken the deterrence effect of criminal law. Immediate and stringent punishments are crucial in preventing the spread of this heinous crime. To address this effectively, India must work towards more efficient and timely legal processes to ensure swift justice, thereby contributing to a safer society.


On December 16, 2012, a horrific gang rape incident occurred in Delhi when a 23-year-old woman, known as Nirbhaya, a para-medical student, went to watch a movie with her friend at PVR Select-City Walk Mall. While waiting for transport at Munirka transport bus-stand, they were persuaded by one of the culprits to get inside a vacant bus. Once inside, they were attacked by six men, including a minor aged 17 years. The victim’s companion tried to protect her but was brutally beaten. she was subjected to forceful sexual assault and vicious beatings. The perpetrators brutally raped her, inflicting severe injuries, including the insertion of an iron rod into her body. After the heinous act, she and her friend were thrown out of the moving bus to die on the roadside. Despite the passing vehicles, it took hours for someone to finally offer help and inform the police. Nirbhaya fought for her life but succumbed to her injuries and died on December 29. The state, acting as the petitioner, convicted the six men involved in this inhuman act. The defence attempted to argue that the six accused were not present at the scene, but the evidence, including DNA tests and blood traces, supported the petitioner’s case, proving the accused’s involvement. The incident sparked nationwide outrage, leading to significant legal changes. The Criminal Amendment Act of 2013 widened the scope of rape by including various forms of non-consensual penetration and introduced new sections to protect women’s rights. This amendment was largely influenced by the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, which was formed to ensure a swift trial and appropriate punishment for the criminals involved in the Nirbhaya case.

The Nirbhaya case served as a catalyst for reforms in India’s laws pertaining to crimes against women, aimed at providing better protection and justice to the victims. It brought attention to the need for stringent laws and swift legal processes to curb such heinous crimes and uphold the rights of women in the country.


  1. Whether Section 375 of Indian Penal Code covers the crime of rape entirely or not?
  2. Whether the offenders should be punished with life imprisonment or death penalty?
  3. Whether the minor should also be punished for this heinous act or should be sent to juvenile home?
  4. Should the scope of Section 375 be broadened?


The case showed strong prosecution from the subordinate court level, and the respondent’s appeal to the High Court yielded the same judgment, confirming the previous order. Subsequently, the defendants’ counsel filed a review petition in the Supreme Court under Article 137. A review petition can be filed when either party is aggrieved by a court order due to factual errors in the case. The petitioner attempted to raise a defence that the offenders were not present at the crime scene and had no link to the crime. However, the court rejected this petition based on the documents and evidence presented by the state. Following the review petition, the counsel pursued a Curative Petition, seeking relief for the aggrieved party even after the final judgment. However, the Supreme Court, considering the welfare of the nation and aiming to prevent similar crimes in the future and uphold justice, rejected the plea.

Finally, the defendants filed a Mercy Petition before the President of India, requesting reprieve or remittance of the punishment imposed by the Apex Court. The President, after consulting with the Council of Ministers and in view of the nation’s welfare, upheld the death sentence given by the Supreme Court.


JUDGMENT BY THE TRIAL COURT Learned Sessions Judge, vide judgment dated 10.09.2013, соnviсted all the ассused рersоns, namely, Аkshаy Kumаr Singh @ Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh and Раwаn Guрtа @ Kааlu under Section 120B IРС for the оffenсe of criminal соnsрirасy; under Section 365/366 IРС read with Section 120B IРС for abducting the victims with an intention to force the prosecutrix to illicit interсоurse; under Section 307 IРС read with Section 120B IРС for attempting to kill РW-1, the informant; under Section 376(2)(g) IРC for соmmitting gang rарe with the prosecutrix in pursuance of their соnsрirасy; under Section 377 IРС reаd with Seсtiоn 120B IРC fоr соmmitting unnatural оffenсe with the prosecutrix; under Section 302 IРС reаd with Seсtiоn 120B IРС fоr соmmitting murder оf the helpless рrоseсutrix; under Seсtiоn 395 IРС fоr соnjоintly соmmitting dасоity in рursuаnсe оf the аfоresаid соnsрirасy; under Seсtiоn 397 IРС reаd with Seсtiоn 120B IРС fоr the use оf irоn rоds аnd fоr attempting tо kill РW-1 аt the time оf соmmitting rоbbery; under Seсtiоn 201 IРС reаd with Section 120B IРC fоr destroying оf evidence аnd under Seсtiоn 412 IРС fоr the оffenсe оf being individually found in роssessiоn of the stolen рrорerty whiсh they аll knew wаs а stоlen bооty оf dасоity соmmitted by them.

 JUDGMENT BY THE SUPREME COURT • In a simple mandate, the court stated that the diabolic act had shaken the common consciousness of the nation and that the court should regard it as the rarest of rare cases in which death sentences could be awarded. According to the Supreme Court, DNA recognition, fingerprints, witness testimony, and odontology confirmed the identity of the accused on the bus and their role in the case. • The bench said, the way they played with the identity, body, dignity & privacy of a women is unforgivable and their evil deeds has no mercy to be given. • The Supreme Court delivered justice to the victim’s family and all women in the country by upholding the death penalty for the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case, describing it as the rarest of rare, most violent and barbaric assault on Jyoti Singh, a 23-yearold paramedic student. The convicts treated the victim as if she were a doll and abused her/his friend at an unforgivable extent. • A three-judge bench unanimously affirmed the Delhi High Court’s ruling, which complied with the trial court’s decision in the matter. Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma, and Akshay Kumar Singh were hanged to death for their violence against a countrywoman. The bench sentenced them to death because their crime matched the rarest-of-rare requirements. Following the incident, since he was a minor at the time, the fifth accused was not charged and was returned to a correctional institution for three years. • The last accused Ram Singh of this case did a suicide in Tihar jail while his trail which proves his guilty mind.


While rape laws in India have evolved, there are still significant issues that need to be addressed, such as gender neutrality and the definition of marital rape. The laws must adapt dynamically and undergo necessary reforms, not just in response to specific incidents but proactively to ensure effectiveness. Three of the convicts, excluding Akshay, sought a summary of the verdict, but their request was denied. The Supreme Court rejected Akshay’s appeal petition on December 18, 2019, and he was subsequently hanged on March 20, 2020. Despite landmark judgments and punishments, India continues to witness numerous rape cases, both reported and unnoticed. Incidents like the Shakthi Mili Gang Rape and the Hyderabad Rape Case are not only human rights violations but also raise concerns about the victim’s safety and well-being.

India has made progress in updating laws and promoting gender equality, but delayed justice remains an issue, allowing room for serious crimes. The case of Nirbhaya received justice, albeit with delay, but such delays may have implications for addressing other crimes effectively. It is crucial for the legal system to function dynamically, implementing reforms as needed to ensure swift and fair justice for all. 


http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/YxL6O1v0   2O17 6 SCC 1

This Article is written by Devyani Kapse of ILS Law College Pune, an Intern at Legal Vidhya.


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