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Latest developments in Delhi gang-rape case

Court slams police for shoddy reply on constable’s death as protesters demand death for rapists

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1. Court slams cops for shoddy reply on constable’s death

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Tuesday slammed the police and warned them of “drastic steps” for not filing a proper response on a petition for a CBI probe into the death of a constable during the anti-rape protests here last month.

“You want the Commissioner of Police [to] stand here in the court with litigants? I can pass that order,” Justice G.P. Mittal said.

The court pulled up the police after the Crime Branch deputy commissioner filed a brief reply in the form of a status report, without any affidavit, on a petition filed by a lawyer seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into constable Subhash Tomar’s death while controlling anti-rape protests near India Gate in December 2012.

“This is not acceptable. Perhaps I have to take some drastic steps,” the judge said.

Tomar, who died on December 25, 2012, was injured during anti-rape protests two days earlier.

Petitioner Gaurav Kumar Bansal pointed out that a three-page reply was filed on his plea by the deputy commissioner of police.

The reply should have been filed by the police chief, he said.

Bansal said that as per the court’s order, the union Home Ministry and the Delhi government were also supposed to file replies but they failed to do so.

The court told the police to file their reply again and asked the central and state governments to respond within a week.

Appearing for the police, Additional Solicitor-General Sidharth Luthra assured the court that a proper reply would be filed within a week.

The court also took up a separate plea filed by eight accused booked over the constable’s death to quash charges against them.

While hearing an application filed by two of the eight accused, the court directed the investigating officer to preserve within three days the CCTV footage of a mobile store where the two claimed to be present when the constable was allegedly attacked by protestors.

Advocate Somnath Bharti, appearing for all the eight accused, had moved the application for preservation of video footage.

The court also asked the police to file a short status report by February 20, the next date of hearing.

Police said Tomar was assaulted and trampled upon by the crowd protesting at India Gate against the December 16, 2012 gang-rape of a trainee physiotherapist here. But two witnesses said that he collapsed while chasing the crowd and that he was not beaten or trampled by the protestors.

The trial court on December 24 granted bail to the accused, who were arrested after the registration of a murder case.

2. Protesters in India demand death for rapists

New Delhi: Scores of protesters gathered near India’s Parliament on Tuesday demanding the death penalty for six men accused of the fatal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi last month.

The protesters carried placards saying: “Give us Justice, Hang the Rapists,” and shouted slogans before conducting a mock hanging of the men who are facing trial in a special court in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition to move the trial out of New Delhi.

The petition, filed by a Delhi-based lawyer, argued that the men would not get a fair trial because of the charged atmosphere in New Delhi following the outcry over the rape and subsequent death of the woman.

The court declared the petition void because the lawyer who filed it was no longer representing one of the defendants.

Also on Tuesday, the victim’s family said it would appeal against a ruling by a juvenile court that one of the accused would be tried as a juvenile since he was under 18 when the attack took place.

The juvenile court’s determination means the teenager he will face a maximum term of three years in a reform facility. If tried as an adult, he could face the death penalty if convicted.

The victim’s father, who cannot be identified until the end of the trial because of a gag order, said a bone test should be conducted on the teenager to determine his age.

Meanwhile, the specially appointed fast-track court was separately hearing arguments in the trial of the men charged with attacking the woman and a male friend on a moving bus.

Details of the proceedings were not available because of the gag order against revealing what happens inside the courtroom.

Police say the 23-year-old victim and her friend boarded the bus on December 16 after watching an evening movie. But the bus turned out to be off-duty and was being driven by a group of friends who, police say, attacked the couple and then took turns raping the woman. They also violated her repeatedly with a metal bar, causing massive internal injuries. The two were eventually dumped on the roadside. The woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

The brutal attack set off nation-wide protests and sparked a national debate about the treatment of women across the country and the inability of law enforcement to protect them.

Since the gang rape, sexual violence has become front-page news nearly every day across the country, with demands that the government do more to protect women and prosecute those that attack them. A government-appointed panel last week announced a wide range of measures on ensuring women safety.

3. No need to lower age for ‘juvenile’, says ex-judge

New Delhi: Amid a demand for lowering the legally defined age for juvenile delinquents following the Delhi gang-rape, a retired high court chief justice on Tuesday said that for one “horrific” incident law should not be changed.

“I agree the incident was horrific, but that doesn’t mean that for one incident law should be changed. The law has been evolved after greater study by social scientists, academicians and criminologist,” Justice Mukul Mudgal, a retired chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, told a news channel here.

Some politicians and women panels have been demanding that the age limit defining ‘juveniles’ should be lowered following the December 16 gang-rape, in which one of the six attackers is below the age of 18 years but was the most brutal.

The 23-year-old woman’s family also Monday expressed dismay over the Juvenile Justice Board’s stand that one of the six accused is a minor, implying that he would not face a maximum penalty of death in trial.

The retired judge said that the bone ossification test for the minor was not required.

“Bone ossification test will not give you the exact age, it will give an approximate age. When the school records are available, the bone ossification test does not help,” Mudgal said.

Besides the juvenile, five other people are also accused in the gang-rape of the trainee physiotherapist in a moving bus. She died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.

The Juvenile Justice Board declared the sixth accused as a juvenile on the basis of the date of birth on his school certificate which mentions June 4, 1995, making him 17 years and six months old at the time of the crime. This is below the age of 18 years, the legally defined age of an adult.

Justice J.S. Verma Committee, constituted to look into rape laws after the brutal incident in its report January 23, refused to propose the lowering of the legally defined age for juvenile delinquents from 18 to 16 years.

Father of gang-rape victim urges changes in law

New Delhi: The father of an Indian student who died after being gang-raped on a bus has called for changes in the law to allow a teenage suspect to be tried as an adult, local media reported on Tuesday.

The father of the 23-year-old victim said he was shocked that a court ruled that the sixth suspect in the deadly gang-rape case would be tried as a juvenile, facing a maximum prison term of three years if convicted.

“I want to ask the lawmakers if an exception shouldn’t be made in this case,” the father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was quoted as saying in the Hindu newspaper.

“We want to be reassured by the government that my rights to justice [are] protected. In this case the accused is hiding behind legal loopholes in the system,” he added.

The victim’s family has been among those calling for the juvenile to be tried alongside the five other accused, who face the possibility of being hanged if found guilty of rape and murder charges.

But the Delhi-based Juvenile Justice Board on Monday accepted the school records of the teenage suspect, which states that he was born on June 4, 1995, making him 17.

“The news came in as the family sat down to have its evening meal. Nobody has eaten since then,” the father said from the family’s modest one-room accommodation in east Delhi.

The dead woman, a physiotherapy student, suffered massive intestinal injuries during the assault on December 16 in which she was raped and violated with an iron bar.

She died 13 days later after the government flew her to a Singapore hospital in a last-ditch bid to save her life.

Though sexual harassment is commonplace in India and gang-rapes far from rare, the case has touched a nerve, leading to an outpouring of criticism of the treatment of women in Indian society.

A government panel set up to recommend changes to sexual crime laws last week rejected calls for the age at which people can be tried as adults to be lowered to 16 from 18.