Gang-rape accused set to face court

Five of the men accused of gang-raping and beating to death a 23-year-old – in a case that has enraged all of India – are expected in court later today.

Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma, and Akshay Singh, all of Ravi Das slum colony in south Delhi, will be formally charged with gang-rape, murder, kidnapping, criminal assault, and robbery, among other charges. The brief of evidence against them is reported to run to 1000 pages.

They will be brought to Saket District Court from Tihar jail, where they are being held in isolation.

If found guilty they could face the death penalty, a rare punishment in India.

The woman’s sixth attacker claims he is a juvenile. Police have ordered a bone test to determine his age.

India’s justice system is famously convoluted, and notoriously slow – serious criminal charges like rape and murder regularly languish for years, even decades, before they are heard _ but, under unyielding public pressure, these cases will be expedited, and brought before a so-called ‘fast-track’ court, set up to hear sex assault cases quickly, the government is promising within three months.

The fast-track court in Saket, in south Delhi close to where the woman was snatched by her attackers, was only inaugurated Wednesday. These are its first cases.

Amid nationwide fury at the brazenness and brutality of the attack, there have been widespread calls for summary executions of the accused, but India’s Chief Justice Altamas Kabir urged the accused must be afforded due process.

“People’s reaction has been: ‘do not send them to trial, hand them over to us, we will deal with them or hang them’. But let us not get carried away. A swift trial should not be at the cost of a fair trial.”

The woman, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, boarded a bus at Munirka with her boyfriend – whom she was to marry next month - after watching a movie on the night of Sunday, December 16.

Once on board, the six men already on the bus, friends who had been drinking, locked the doors and bashed her partner unconscious with an iron rod.

They then turned on the girl, beating her and taking turns raping her for more than 40 minutes.

The pair was thrown, naked and unconscious, from the moving bus. The girl died in a Singapore hospital 13 days later from horrific internal injuries.

She was cremated in Delhi Sunday.

He father, speaking to BBC’s Hindi channel from his family’s ancestral village in Uttar Pradesh, said a determined streak had propelled her daughter from a poor rural village into higher education.

“She was brave, had no fear and full of life. She studied day and night. We would not even know when she slept and woke up. My daughter was very adamant on whatever she wanted.”

The woman’s family sold some of their land so they could fund their daughter’s education.

“She always wanted to be a doctor and was sure about it. That’s why we moved from this rural place to Delhi – to give our children a better future.”

The woman’s father said he supported the death penalty for all of the men who attacked his daughter, including the juvenile.

“All the six accused should never be allowed to step out of the jail... they must be hanged. They are a threat to every woman on the street.”

Protests over the gang-rape of the woman, and over women’s rights and safety more broadly, are continuing in Delhi’s city centre.

The story Gang-rape accused set to face court first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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