NEW DELHI — Four Indian men were sentenced to death Friday for gang-raping and murdering a young woman late last year. The men, including a part-time bus driver, were joy-riding through New Delhi on a bus on the night of Dec. 16 when they lured the 23-year-old woman and her male friend into boarding. They then beat the friend, took turns raping the woman and violated her with an iron rod. She died two weeks later of internal injuries.
The prosecutor demanded the death sentence, calling the crime barbaric, while their lawyers called for prison sentences, citing their poverty, poor education and lack of criminal history.
Here are some of the details of capital punishment in India:
_ India's legal system allows for execution in what the Supreme Court calls "the rarest of the rare cases." What defines those cases remains debated, but the only executions in recent years have been of convicted terrorists. The vast majority of the 100-150 death sentences handed down each year are eventually commuted to life in prison. India is thought to have carried out about 50 executions since independence in 1947.
_ All execution orders must be confirmed by India's High Court. The convicts can appeal their case to the High Court, as well as to the Supreme Court, and ask the president for clemency. The office of the current president, Pranab Mukherjee, says it does not keep track of how many clemency appeals it receives or signs. Media reports indicate he has rejected the clemency pleas of 17 people, and commuted one execution. That hardline attitude is widely seen as an effort by the Congress party, which faces national elections next year, not to look weak on terrorism.
_ For nearly a decade, India had an unofficial moratorium on executions. That ended in November 2012 with the execution of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Two months later, Mohammad Afzal Guru, convicted in a deadly 2001 attack on India's Parliament complex, was also hanged. Both executions were done secretly, without any public notice.
_ Executions are done by hanging in India. Many of the ropes used are made by prisoners at a jail in eastern India.