Police charge five in New Delhi gang-rape case

Authorities say they plan to push for the death penalty, as government vows to protect women

  • Women lawyers shout slogans against police and the government outside the District Court in New Delhi where a Image Credit: AP
  • Musicians play John Lennon’s Imagine in a memorial tribute to the 23-year old gang rapevictim during a mass Image Credit: AFP
08 Gulf News

New Delhi: Authorities filed rape and murder charges Thursday against five men accused of the gang rape of a 23-year-old university student on a New Delhi bus, a crime that horrified Indians and provoked a national debate about the treatment of women.

Police said they plan to push for the death penalty in the case, as government officials promised new measures to protect women in the nation’s capital.

Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan filed a case of rape, tampering with evidence, kidnapping, murder and other charges against the men in a new fast-track court in south Delhi inaugurated only the day before to deal specifically with crimes against women. Mohan asked for a closed trial, and a hearing was set for Saturday.

The men charged are Ram Singh, 33, the bus driver, his brother Mukesh Singh, 26, who cleans buses for the same company, Pavan Gupta, 19, a fruit vendor, Akshay Singh, 24, a bus washer, and Vinay Sharma, 20, a fitness trainer. They did not appear in court.

A sixth suspect was listed as 17 and was expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility. Police also detained the owner of the bus on accusations that he used false documents to obtain permits to run the private bus service.

Media reports say police have gathered 30 witnesses, and the charges have been detailed in a document running more than 1,000 pages. The document was not released Thursday. The Bar Association said its lawyers would not defend the suspects because of the nature of the crime, but the court is expected to appoint attorneys to defend them.

“Strict, strict, strict punishment should be given to them,” said Ashima Sharma, an 18-year-old student attending a protest Thursday. “A very strict punishment that all men of India should be aware that they are not going to treat the women like the way they treated her.”

The woman, who died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital Saturday, was attacked December 16 after boarding a bus with a male companion after watching an evening showing of the movie “Life of Pi” at an upscale mall. The vehicle was a charter bus that illegally picked up the two passengers, authorities said.

The pair were attacked for hours as the bus drove through the city, even passing through police checkpoints during the assault. They were eventually dumped naked on the side of the road. The woman, whose name was not released, was assaulted with an iron bar and suffered severe internal injuries that eventually proved fatal.

The attack caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws, better police protection and a sustained campaign to change society’s views about women. The government has set up a series of panels to look into the incident and make reform recommendations, and women’s activists hope the assault will mark a turning point for the country.

Outside the court, about 50 woman lawyers held a protest, demanding wholesale changes in the criminal justice system to ensure justice for women. “Punish the police, sensitize judiciary, eradicate rape,” read one protester’s sign.

Indian Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said the accused should be tried swiftly, but cautioned that they needed to be given a fair trial and not be subjected to mob justice.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” he told reporters Wednesday, while inaugurating the new fast-track court. “Let us balance things. Let us not get carried away. Provide justice in a fair but swift manner so that faith of people is once again restored that the judiciary is there behind the common man.”

The government is to set up four other such courts in the capital to hold timely trials in sexual assault cases, which often get bogged down for years in India’s notoriously sluggish court system. The new courts will send the message “that these matters are going to be dealt with seriously,” Kabir said.

Many cases never even get to court in a country where there is intense social pressure against families reporting sexual assaults and where women are often blamed for the attacks they suffer. When women do report rapes, police often refuse to file charges and pressure the victims to reach a compromise with their attackers.

In a sign that attitudes toward such behaviour might be changing, and that even powerful men are being held accountable, police in the northeastern state of Assam arrested a leader of the ruling Congress party Thursday on accusations he raped a woman in a village in the early hours of the morning.

Footage on Indian television showed the extraordinary scene of local women surrounding the man, ripping off his shirt and repeatedly slapping him across the face.

Police said the man, Bikram Singh Brahma, was visiting the village of Santipur on the Bhutan border when he entered a woman’s house and raped her at about 2am. Amid the screams, villagers ran to the home and captured the man, said GP Singh, a senior police officer in the area.

“We are taking this issue very seriously,” Singh said.


  • Devlin Jean

    Jan 4, 2013 1:39

    This is the worst rape case I ever heard. Rest in peace to the girl.Those people should be punished right away.

  • J Abdulla S

    Jan 4, 2013 1:30

    If system want to be careful with the court sessions, they shouldatleast release the pictures of the suspects so that they are hated bythe public in which way they wouldn't get death penalty but atleast theyare publically humiliation and to live by threat of getting killed.Especially if its the case 23yr old uni student

  • Agniyah Xec

    Jan 4, 2013 1:20

    Why only five are charged I wonder. What happened to the sixth andsupposedly the most energetic one? Juvenile or not, everyone who playedhis part in the crime deserves equal punishment. A life is lost aftertorturing it to the maximum. While respecting the democratic set-up ofthe nation, I also wonder why the justice system is extremely slow? Wheneveryone deserves and is given a fair trial, a molestation or a deathmust be avenged accordingly. Else, people will take the system for granted.

  • Fiaz

    Jan 4, 2013 11:45

    No punishment, this will be like another normal government office. Youknow guys how things work in our indian government office.

  • Fiaz

    Jan 4, 2013 11:42

    The indian government will not settle the case or punish the culpritsfor the next 4 years. The terrorist who was caught alive in Mumbaiattacks was punished after 4 Years, inspite of possssing gun and arms,still the indian government took 4 years. WHY?

  • Sandeep

    Jan 4, 2013 11:27

    All this is just a shroud to distract the public. With ministers andlaw-makers over the age of 70 governing our beautiful young and vibrantnation, there should be a law similar to one here in UAE highlightingwomen's superior rights. On the same note, the judicial system in Indiais not capable ofr handling the country's problems. They should be sentfor training to other developed countries with the motto "Watch& learn for goodness sake".

  • Ali

    Jan 4, 2013 10:03

    rather than wasting money on courts and advocates simply hand thecriminals in front of the public where they have dumped the poor girl!

  • J Krishnan

    Jan 4, 2013 9:58

    Indian courts are slow and law over-lenient - even in blood crimes andrape. Death sentence is rarely used - resulting in increased crime bycriminal minds.