New Delhi (dpa) – A man convicted of the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder as a juvenile was freed Sunday after a three-year detention amid protests and legal efforts to prevent his release.
The convict was shifted from the reform home in Delhi and will stay in the Indian capital, his lawyer AP Singh said.
An Indian girl holds a placard reading “If juvenile commits a rape, hang him,” in Hindi during a protest to mark the third anniversary of a 2012 Delhi gang rape that shocked the nation. The parents of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh, who was gang-raped and murdered in the Indian capital three years ago, joined rights groups and students Wednesday to pledge that the battle to make the country a safer place for women would continue.
“His three-year term got over on Sunday evening. He has been released,” Singh said, declining to give further details.
Broadcaster NDTV reported the man was put under the care of a charity until the government came up with a comprehensive rehabilitation plan.
Under the plan, the convict’s identity is being changed and no record of his criminal record will remain in the public domain, government sources told the Indian media.
The offender, now 20 years old, was the youngest of six men convicted over the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in December 2012, a crime so brutal it shocked India and the world.
Four adult convicts are appealing against death sentences and a fifth was found dead in prison.
He was a few months short of 18 years at the time of the crime and was sentenced to three years in a reform home, the maximum punishment under India’s Juvenile Justice Act.
The sentence has been widely seen as too lenient and sparked a debate on whether India was soft on young offenders.
Many people joined protests in the Indian capital led by the victim’s parents over the juvenile’s release. The parents had been demanding capital punishment for the offender.
“The government and the judicial system let us down. This man who police said was the most brutal of rapists, will get away with the crime and is even being rehabilitated,” her mother told reporters at a sit-in protest in the heart of Delhi.
In a last-ditch effort to stall his release earlier Sunday, the state-run Delhi Commission of Women submitted a petition before the Supreme Court. The court agreed to hear a plea on Monday, but did not issue any instructions blocking his release.
The commission claims the convict had not been reformed at the correctional home and was unremorseful of his action.
“Thus releasing the respondent without even calling for an assessment of his mental state may be extremely dangerous to the society,” the petition had stated.
But legal experts and women’s rights activists are divided over the issue, with many saying the convict could not be detained in any government home after the term was over.
Earlier last week, the Delhi High Court had also refused to block his release, saying the law did not allow for a man to be kept in further detention.