New Delhi: A fast-track court has paved the way for the trial from Tuesday of five men accused of gang-raping a young woman on a moving bus on December 16, 2012, by framing charges against them.
Additional Sessions Judge Yogendra Khanna on Saturday framed the charges of murder, gang-rape and kidnapping, among others, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The five accused are Ram Singh, a bus driver, and his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, a fruit seller, Vinay Sharma, a gym instructor, and Akshay Thakur, a bus cleaner. They are currently housed in Tihar Jail.
The Juvenile Justice Board declared the sixth accused a minor last month, and his case will be heard by the board.
A fast-track court was set up for the case that led to nationwide outrage against crimes against women.
The accused were formally charged by police in the Saket court 18 days after they gang-raped and tortured the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern on a moving bus, causing multiple-organ failure that led to her death.
India’s cabinet has approved harsher punishments for rapists, including the death penalty, after the brutal gang-rape.
A government-appointed panel recommended the changes to ministers.
The changes, which must be approved by President Pranab Mukherjee to become law, include doubling the minimum sentence for gang-rape and imposing the death penalty when the victim is killed or left in a vegetative state.
“We have taken swift action and hope these steps will make women feel safer in the country,” Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said late on Friday.
“This is a progressive piece of legislation and is consistent with the felt sensitivities of the nation in the aftermath of the outrageous gang-rape,” he added.
The changes to the rape laws are expected to be approved by Mukherjee as early as this weekend but must be ratified by parliament or they will lapse.
Under the changes, the minimum sentence for gang-rape, rape of a minor, rape by policemen or a person in authority will be doubled to 20 years from 10 and can be extended to life without parole.
Under the current law, a rapist faces a term of seven to ten years.
The cabinet has also created a new set of offences such as voyeurism and stalking that will be included in the new law.
The Centre’s move to pass the ordinance has received support from the brother of the Delhi gang-rape victim.
The brother said he hoped that it would now pave the way for capital punishment for the accused.
He said just as the government took a positive initiative in the direction of a stringent anti-rape law, it should also frame a law to reduce the age of juvenile immediately.
One of the six accused in the gang-rape case has been declared a “minor” by the Juvenile Justice Board and could walk free by June 4, when he attains 18 years of age.
The 23-year-old paramedical student was gang-raped and brutally assaulted. She died a few days later in a Singapore hospital.
Rape that leads to the death of the victim or leaving them in a vegetative state can attract the death penalty under an ordinance cleared by the Union Cabinet on Friday night, incorporating the Justice JS Verma Committee recommendations on tightening rape laws in the country.