The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to reverse the release of the youngest convict in the brutal gang rape in a major disappointment for the victim’s parents, who are demanding that the offender be put behind bars.
The judges said there were no legal grounds to allow a petition by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), which had appealed to the court to reverse the release of the 20-year old from a youth correctional facility.
"The Supreme Court has dismissed our plea in the absence of any specific legislation. He cannot be detained any further," said Swati Maliwal, chairwoman of DCW.
The man, who was 17 at the time of the crime in 2012, had received the maximum punishment of three years from the Juvenile Justice Board. The sentence sparked a debate over whether India was too soft on its young offenders.
The decision on Monday came as a big setback for the victim's parents, who have vowed to step up protests.
"What can I say? There are no words to describe our disappointment," Badrinath Singh, the father of the victim Jyoti Singh, told AFP news agency.
"We don't understand all these laws. We only know that the system has failed us."
Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday near Delhi's India Gate to protest against the release. The protests were broken up by the police who had imposed prohibitory orders in the high-security zone near the presidential palace. The victim's parents, who were leading the protest rally, were briefly detained.
Despite the police action on Sunday, the parents are expected to take part in another demonstration on Monday at Jantar Mantar, a traditional protest venue close to the parliament.
"We will not stop our fight here," said Singh. "We will now intensify our protest as my daughter has not got justice."
In 2012, the man and four others were charged with the brutal rape and murder of a young woman after they lured her and a male companion onto a bus in Delhi.
The other four men were handed death sentences for the heinous crime. Their appeals are being heard by the Supreme Court.