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Vinay Sharma v/s Union of India: An Analysis

Facts of the case
A shocking incident happened in Delhi which shocked the entire country to its core. A girl and her friend were returning after watching a movie at night on 16th December 2012. They took a bus from Munirka Bus Stand which consisted of 6 men. The bus had yellow and green lines on it and 'YADAV' was written on the bus. The bus was supposed to move towards Dwarka-Palam Road but moved off-route instead.

When the men inside the bus closed the doors of the bus, the girl and her friend suspected that something is wrong and questioned them about the same. The men shouted at him and started molesting the girl when a fight broke out between the men and the girl's friend. She was constantly gang-raped at the back of the bus and an iron-rod was inserted in her private part by a juvenile attacker. When the girl tried to fight back, the men pulled and ripped off her intestines.

After all of this happened, the girl and her friend were thrown out of the bus at the side of the road to die. They both were found lying on the side of the road by a passerby who informed the Delhi police. The girl was admitted to the Safdarjung Hospital where it was found by the doctors of the hospital that only 5% of her intestine was left. The girl was shifted to Mt. Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore, where she died on 29th December, 2012 due to multiple organ failure and multiple injuries.

Vinay Sharma v/s Union of India: An Analysis
Citation: AIR 2020 SC 1451
Judgement date: 14th February, 2020
Bench: R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan, A.S. Bopanna

Issues raised:
  • Whether rape as defined under section 375 of the IPC covers the offence entirely?
  • Whether death penalty can be given to the convicts as punishment for such heinous crime?
  • Whether a juvenile committing the offence should get punishment equivalent to the adult?
  • Whether public outrage can influence the judgment in a case?
  • Whether the sexual offences against women are tried appropriately in India?

Contentions raised by both the parties:
The petitioner had filed the writ petition challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the President of India and seeking reduction of his death sentence inter alia on the grounds:
  1. Non-furnishing of relevant materials under RTI Act;
  2. Non-consideration of relevant material;
  3. Torture;
  4. Mental illness;
  5. Consideration of irrelevant material by the respondent authorities;
  6. Illegal solitary confinement.
The respondent submitted that all the relevant documents were submitted before the concerned authorities and the mercy petition was forwarded to the President. As far as the mental illness of the petitioner is concerned, he was regularly checked and 'the Medical Officer In-Charge, Central Jail Hospital had issued the medical report stating that the petitioner was psychologically well adjusted and his general condition is stable'.

As per the affidavit filed by Director General (Prisons), Tihar Jail, he was never placed in solitary confinement and he interacted well with the other prisoners as well. The scope of judicial review of the order passed by the President of India is very limited.

The court considered both the 'mitigating and aggravating factors'. In this particular case, the mitigating factors included dependent and ailing parents, the age of the convicts, behavior in jail, no criminal antecedents and post-crime remorse. However, the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors. The grievous nature of the crime led the court to ignore all the mitigating factors.

They relied on the 'rarest of the rare' test set by Bachan Singh and concluded that the punishment of the convicts cannot be reduced to life imprisonment and the court served them with death penalty. Justice R. Banumathi gave a concurring opinion where she not only agreed with the exceptional nature of the crime, worthy of capital punishment but she also reflected on the larger social context in which the Court was delivering its judgment. She stressed on the fact that the crime required larger social reform in order to achieve gender justice.

The Nirbhaya case judgement did absolute justice to the victim. However, the fact that the juvenile got to escape from the said crime inspite of being the person who caused major harm to the victim seems a little unjust. The laws in our country back then were such that even if a juvenile of 17 years commits such a grievous crime, he will be dealt as per juvenile laws.

The good thing that came out of this was an amendment to the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act which would treat the juveniles of 16-18 yrs old in the same manner as adults if they commit a 'heinous crime'. After the horrific case of Nirbhaya, the government has taken several steps to improve the condition of safety for women in India. Certain laws such as Section 375, 376, 354 (A), (C), (D) and several other sections were amended. An amendment was brought to the Juvenile Justice Act and the age of consent was set at 18 years.

  1. Brunner, J. and R, K. (2022) Laws have changed after Nirbhaya rape case, have these amendments deterred crimes against women?, Available at: (Accessed: 09 July 2023).
  2. Anand, S. (2020) Mukesh and anrs. vs NCT Delhi (Nirbhaya Case)(2017) 6 SCC 1- case comment, Legal Desire Media and Insights. Available at: (Accessed: 09 July 2023).

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Mansi Singh
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: AG322130830128-9-0823

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