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Two Executions Three Decades Apart

On March 20 at dawn, four men were hanged simultaneously in the Indian capital. They had little in common with the man who was executed by the State of Florida on January 24, 1989, other than the nation and the world being united in hating them.

To crime buffs and anyone above a certain age, Ted Bundy needs no introduction; the man who led to the coining of the phrase serial killer, and who became the poster boy for the pastime, was electrocuted at Florida State Prison while crowds cheered outside. In the run up, people were selling “Burn Bundy” t-shirts, and some diners sold “Bundy fries”.

There was none of that understandable vulgarity Friday when Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh went to meet their Maker, but the crowds cheered nonetheless. Since the turn of the Millennium, well over a thousand people have been sentenced to death in India, but to date only eight have been executed. The last one was the terrorist mass murderer Yakub Memon who was arrested in 1994, convicted in 2007, and executed only in 2015.

Thakur, Sharma, Gupta and Singh were convicted only of one murder, but it was one that was so horrific it beggars belief. In December 2012, five men and a juvenile were aboard a bus that was apparently in service. In reality all six, including the driver, were predators on the prowl. The two hapless passengers who boarded it were physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh and her male companion. Apparently they were friends rather than lovers. The night ended with Awindra Pratap Pandey being beaten then thrown from the bus, and Jyoti being viciously raped, including with a metal implement, if you can imagine that. She died thirteen days later after being flown to Singapore for specialist treatment. Initially, Jyoti Singh was not named, and officially she still cannot be named, so is known as Nirbhaya, meaning the fearless one.

While Ted Bundy has spawned books as well as numerous documentaries and dramatisations, the only in-depth treatment so far of the killers of the woman who became known as India’s Daughter was made by the BBC in 2015. The film was banned in India; it caused outrage, no more so than the comments of the bus driver Mukesh Singh who was interviewed for it. He claimed literally that the victim deserved it. His comments have been widely and wilfully interpreted by feminist mischief-makers as being symptomatic of India’s deep seated misogyny rather than the self-serving justifications of a violent psychopath.

Only four of the killers were executed because one committed suicide in prison while the juvenile was released after a mere three years, that being the maximum sentence he could receive under Indian law. In the United States, he would have been tried as an adult and sentenced to decades in prison. Likewise in Britain, on which Indian law is based, he would still be behind bars today.

While even monsters deserve due process, there was really no reason these four could not have been executed by 2015 or even sooner. Once their crimes were proven beyond all reasonable doubt and had been reviewed by an appellate court, what further grounds could there be for sparing their lives? Likewise, Ted Bundy received the third of his death sentences in February 1980. Another notorious American serial killer, Lawrence Bittaker, was formally sentenced to death in March 1981 but died of old age in December last year.

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