Author:Janvi J Kothari, A Student at Smt.Kamalaben Gambhirchand Shah Law School

The infamous Nirbhaya Gang Rape case in Indian History is known for creating public outcry, agitation and nationwide movement against the ghastly incident where a paramedic student was sexually assaulted in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16, 2012. The incident caught public attention to prevalence of sexual violence against women in India and the inadequacy of the system to respond to the safety of the women. India saw the limits of cruelty which the girl had to suffer and go through during and after the incident. The incident provoked enormous agitation and nationwide candle March protest demanding justice, strict laws for safety of women. This resulted in significant reforms in laws and the approach while handling such cases significantly changed. The government enacted new laws increased penalties for sexual crimes and introduced new offences like acid attacks and stalking. The present article gives analysis of the case and the landmark changes it brought in the criminal justice system 


The Nirbhaya case proved to be a landmark judgment brining sea changes in the criminal justice system. The incident prompted law makers to seek ways to protect woman from atrocities against women in India as the incident raised serious concerns about the safety of women in India and the enforcement mechanisms for protecting women. The entire world witnessed the power of public opinion and perception of justice in the context of the incident. This case led to the series of riots and protests all over the country and the Government saw a rage of the people for the offenders and against this heinous and brutal incident.  


 The girl Nirbhaya (not her real name) went to watch a movie with her friend Pandey, while returning home after watching the movie called “Life of Pi” on the fearsome night of December 16, 2012. Nirbhaya along with her friend got on a bus at Munirka bus stand, where six other men including the bus driver were already seated in the bus. The bus started to deviate from its intended path and the other men in the bus shut the door and switched off the lights in the bus. No other person could board the bus as it was continuously moving. Suspecting something wrong, the young friend of her raised an objection, he was yelled down, and a brawl erupted as the inebriated guys began abusing her. On raising further opposition to the abuse, Pandey was knocked down on the floor of the bus and he was hit with the iron rod and the other men dragged the girl to the back of the bus and repeatedly gang raped her one by one and she was also subjected to unnatural sex. As she tried to fight back to the assault and rape, one of them inserted an iron rod into the girl’s private parts, pulling and ripping of her intestines apart. While the brutal incident was going on in the bus the driver drove the bus all over Delhi. Later, both of them were pushed outside the bus and left to die at the side of the road. Raj Kumar a passerby found both of them naked having blood all around at the foot of Mahipalpur fly over and informed the Police. They were taken to the Safdarjung Hospital where the doctors found that the girl had only five per cent of her intestines left in her body. Even though number of surgeries were performed, one after the other, she could not recover and on December 29, 2012, she succumbed to her injuries. The tragedy sparked significant protests and rallies across the country. It also led to some reforms in legislations prohibiting violence against women. Police filed charge sheet against the accused. The adult offenders were charged under 13 offences along with murder. One of the accused (Ram Singh) committed suicide, and was found dead in his cell in Tihar Jail. The Juvenile Justice Board convicted the sixth offender (the Juvenile) for gang rape and murder, and gave punishment of three year term in the probation home. The fast track court sentenced the four accused with death sentence. Delhi High Court uphold the judgement of the lower court. The accused approached the Supreme Court, proceeding of Hearing were then started subsequently. Supreme Court uphold the death penalty of four accused. The three convicts approached the SC by the way of review petition, whereas, the Supreme Court rejected the review petition filed by the convicts Pawan, Mukesh and Vinay. Vinay Sharma filed a mercy petition. Akshay Thakur filed review petition in SC, but the CJI refused to hear the review plea. Later Supreme Court rejected the review plea and Akshay sought three weeks to file his mercy petition before President. At last all of them were convicted.


 The session judge, in a judgement dated 10th September, 2013, convicted all the accused under various sections of the INDIAN PENAL CODE and sentenced them to death penalty. The High Court, in a judgement on 13th March, 2014, affirmed the conviction and confirmed the death penalty, leading to the dismissal of appeals filed by the accused. “During the course of trial, accused Ram Singh committed suicide and the proceedings qua him stood abated vide order dated 12.10.2013.”2 “The convicts, namely, convict Akshay Kumar Singh @ Thakur, convict Mukesh, convict Vinay Sharma and convict Pawan Gupta @ Kaalu are sentenced to death for offence punishable under Section 302 Indian Penal Code. Accordingly, the convicts to be hanged till death.


The SC held that, “the HC has correctly confirmed the death penalty and there is no reason to differ with the same”. According to the three judge bench, the severe nature of the crime, involving crimes like gang rape, unnatural sex, etc., fall under the bracket of the “rarest of rare” principle. Also, one accused was a minor at the time of the offence so, he was sent to a Juvenile court where he was held guilty and sent to correction home for three years as he was a minor.


The Nirbhaya case left a significant influence on the Indian judicial system, controlling the legislative and procedural improvements to fight against the sexual harassment and related offences and enhance overall legal administration. Among all the changes some significant changes are mentioned herein below:

 1. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 20133 – This act was introduced by the government to reform the criminal laws, dealing with sexual offences. The following are some of the important provisions introduced:

 i. The definition of rape has been expanded to encompass a broader variety of sexual assaults.

iii. New Crimes were introduced including acid attack, stalking and voyeurism.

 2. Fast-Track CourtsPeople demanded speedy justice and to meet this demand fast-track courts were established, to accelerate the process of trial in sexual offences. The reason behind establishing these courts was also to dispose-off the back log of cases and ensuring timely justice for the victims.

 3. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 20154 – This case put forth the concern regarding the age of children in heinous crimes were raised. As a result new Juvenile Justice Act was revised to allow teenagers aged 16 to 18 years to be tried as adults for certain acts, involving the grave offences like rape. 


In India law is something which is been still molded in an old-fashioned manner, and has not changed with the changing times and needs of the people in the country. Legislations given by the British are still prevalent and applicable at present even though they are amended to some extent. While it does make some changes in the laws, as and when needed to some extent. Significant changes in Laws were made after Mukesh & Anr. v. State for NCT of Delhi & Ors.Case.

The entire nation was shocked by the incident and in response, there were considerable changes made, provisions made and new crimes were introduced. Existing laws were to be rigorously followed and safety and protection of women became the first priority. Several factors were taken into consideration, along with the crimes against women and punishments were specifically defined. In spite of the changes brought in laws and their effective and strict implementation, heinous crimes against women continued. Despite the efforts made by the judiciary, executive and legislature the offenders always find a way out. In rape cases the judiciary has broaden the scope by delivering landmark judgements from time to time. This has created fear in the minds of the offenders to some extent and also maintained the balance in the society. Despite the fact that the Nirbhaya case underlined the weakness and lack of adequate execution of the laws, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was enacted, along with some changes in other statutes. However, regardless of the introduction of the laws and regulations, there are several problems relating to the implementation and execution of the laws. There are instances in this case where, along with the procedure followed by the police, the medical evidences was challenged. As a result changes were to be made in the Medical evidences, Efforts have to be made and care has to be taken while performing DNA testing and profiling. The time and duration within which such tests are to be conducted should be appropriate so that the evidence does not get destroyed. The police officials often do not take these cases seriously, advices the victims and family members to ignore the same. This attitude of the officials lead to delay in the procedure of collecting the evidence, and hampers the entire procedure. Nirbhaya case has brought significant changes in the laws and procedures which was overdue for long. There were no strict laws with respect to the crimes against women, and the existing laws were not followed or rather got given much ignored, The Nirbhaya case has made significant change in understanding rape as an offence but also introduced changes in the Evidence Act and the Forensic Act.


While the Nirbhaya case itself is a landmark case that prompted significant legal reforms, there are several other cases related to sexual violence and women’s rights in India that have also left a lasting impact. Here are a few notable cases:


 Significance: This case laid the foundation for addressing sexual harassment at the workplace. The Supreme Court issued guidelines, known as the Vishakha Guidelines, to ensure the prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at workplaces.


 Significance: This case marked a significant step in addressing sexual harassment within government offices. The landmark judgment held that the offense of molestation was established, emphasizing the need to protect women from sexual harassment in professional settings.


 Significance: This case addressed custody and guardianship rights of mothers. The Supreme Court held that a mother could be a natural guardian of her minor children, challenging the traditional notion that fathers were the sole guardians.

These cases, along with the Nirbhaya case, have collectively shaped the legal landscape concerning women’s rights and sexual violence in India. They highlight the judiciary’s role in interpreting laws, protecting women’s rights, and influencing legislative changes to address societal issues.


The Nirbhaya gang rape case highlighted major flaws in the Indian Justice system and brought about changes in laws. The Criminal Amendment Act, 2013, introduced some offences such as stalking, acid attack and voyeurism. Also, the minimum punishment for rape was raised. In the rape cases, the victim’s character has no relevance. Another major change which was brought in was in Juvenile Justice System. Additionally, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, amended the age for being tried as an adult for violent crimes like rape from 16 to 18 years, addressing the issue of juvenile offenders.

Nirbhaya Case FAQs

1. What are the issues involved in the Nirbhaya case?

The incident brought to light the pervasiveness of sexual violence against women in India as well as the shortcomings of the system in addressing the safety of the victims. India witnessed the extent of the girl’s suffering and ordeal both during and after the occurrence.

2. What is the conclusion of the Nirbhaya case?

The four adult defendants were found guilty on September 10, 2013, in the Delhi fast track court of rape, murder, unnatural offenses, and evidence destruction.

3. Why was the Nirbhaya case so famous?

In 2012, news of Jyoti Singh’s (Nirbhaya) horrific gang rape on a New Delhi bus went global. Known widely as the Nirbhaya rape event, it was a historic case that prompted the Indian government to modify the country’s current rape and sexual violence legislation.

4. Who inserted the iron rod in Nirbhaya?

Mukesh, who was 26 at the time, was the driver of the bus and the one who enticed the victims inside. Later on, he struck the victims with an iron rod as well. In addition, Mukesh had begged that he had not sexually assaulted the woman because he was the bus driver.

5. What forensic evidence is there in the Nirbhaya case?

The most important piece of evidence used by the authorities to connect the accused to the crime was their DNA profile. To establish the incident, samples were taken from the victim’s corpse, the complainant, the accused, garments thrown at the scene, iron rods, the ashes of partially burned clothes, and the bus.

6. Who was the doctor who treated Nirbhaya?

Dr. Kandwal, who was the first medical professional to treat Nirbhaya after she was horribly and irrevocably injured over seven years ago, is up, unable to sleep as he spends the entire night watching the hearing on a satellite television channel.

7. What is the slogan of the Nirbhaya movement?

The entire nation was rocked by this occurrence. All around the nation, people had flocked to the streets with signs and candles, shouting things like “We want security for daughters,” “No girl’s clothes, change your thinking,” and “Justice for Nirbhaya.”

8. Under which section is the Nirbhaya case?

The Criminal Amendment Act of 2013 was passed in response to the controversy over the Nirbhaya case. It significantly altered the definition and punishment of rape, which were previously thought to be insufficient.

9. What is the judicial activism of Nirbhaya case?

In the Nirbhaya case, judges displayed prudence rather than judicial activism as the juvenile was freed from the correctional facility after three years. Depending on the circumstances of each case, judges must use both prudence and activism in the current environment.

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