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India awaits punishment verdict for gang rape -

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SCOTT BEVAN: Well much of India is transfixed by the fate of just four men in a Delhi courtroom, as the group convicted of the gang rape and murder of a young student on a city bus last year, are sentenced.

Prosecutors are pushing for the death penalty. The victim's family wants the men to hang, as do large sections of the public.

But amid the calls for their execution, the mother of one of the guilty men is pleading for the judge to show her son leniency.

South Asia correspondent Michael Edwards reports from New Delhi.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: After 9 months, one of India's most high profile criminal cases ever is set to draw to an end today. The four men convicted of last December's gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi will hear their sentences.

The death penalty is a possibility - something many of the public want.

NEW DELHI MAN: The rapists should be given the capital punishment because then only they will learn and they will stop it.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The victim's family also wants the death penalty, as do many senior members of India's government.

The victim cannot be named for legal reasons, but the Indian media has dubbed her "Nirbhaya", a Hindi word meaning fearless.

She became a symbol of the daily dangers women face in a country where a rape is reported on average every 21 minutes and acid attacks and incidents of molestation are common. And people are sick of it and they want today's sentencing to send a clear message.

NEW DELHI MAN 2 (translated): Such beasts and criminals should be given severe punishment so that the future generations do not dare to commit such a heinous crime.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But in the south Delhi slum where the men lived, their families are asking for mercy.

Vinay Sharma was a part-time gym instructor and student. His mother maintains his innocence.

VINAY SHARMAS MOTHER (translation): This is wrong, an injustice is being done. Just because we are poor we are being wronged. Our son and the other convict, Pavan Gupta, were framed by Ram Singh and Mukesh Singh. They gave their names, my son wasn't even there, why is this happening to them?

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And VK Anand, the lawyer for another of the men, Mukesh Singh, has asked the judge to consider his client’s conduct during the trial proceedings.

VK ANAND (translated): I would only like to say one thing, that because Mukesh presented himself in the court with all fairness throughout the trial, he should be given a little relaxation. He has helped the court's proceedings and he has not lied to the court. I cannot say about other criminals, but at least Mukesh was there with all fairness. I believe that there should be some relaxation for such a person.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But the most strident voices remain those in favour of the death penalty being handed down in this case.

Suman Nalwa is deputy commissioner of police in New Delhi.

SUMAN NALWA: It wasn't (inaudible) of the cases, why everybody was on the street, it was because it was so gruesome, even police officers were shocked with the nature of the crime.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The teenager convicted of the same crime is serving a three year jail term in a juvenile facility.

SCOTT BEVAN: This is Michael Edwards reporting from New Delhi for PM.