An Indian court has sentenced four men to death for the gang rape and murder of a student in the capital, Delhi.
A court convicted Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta in the December attack on the 23-year-old woman -- a crime that unleashed a wave of public anger over the treatment of women in India. The woman died of internal injuries two weeks after the attack.
Judge Yogesh Khanna said on Friday the case fell in the "rarest of rare category and warrants the exemplary punishment of death," rejecting pleas for lighter sentences. The four men faced either life imprisonment or death by hanging.
"In these times, when crime against women is on the rise, the courts cannot turn a blind eye toward such gruesome crimes," Khanna said in announcing the sentence.
He said the attack "shocked the collective conscience" of India.
One of the convicted men, Sharma, 20, broke down in tears as the sentence was announced.
As the news broke, crowds in the building and outside the courtroom roared with cheers and applauded the judgment.
Members of the prosecution team congratulated one another, with lead lawyer Dayan Krishnan saying, "We did our job. We are happy with this sentence."
Like all death sentences, Khanna's order must be confirmed by India's High Court. The men can appeal their case to the High Court as well as to the Supreme Court and ask the president for clemency.
The victim's family, along with numerous politicians and government officials, had long called for the men to be executed.
As the father of the victim left the court, he said his family was also satisfied with the sentences.
"I am very happy our girl has got justice," he told reporters, flanked by his wife and sons.
Earlier, protesters outside the court demanded that the four men be hanged.
The case has been closely followed across India -- seen as a reflection on rampant mistreatment of women and the government's inability to deal with crime.
Al Jazeera and wire services