Five charged over India gang-rape
Five Indian men were formally charged in court today with the gang rape and murder of a woman in a case that has generated widespread anger about the government's inability to prevent violence against women.
The December 16th attack on the 23-year-old physiotherapy student and a male companion provoked furious protests close to the seat of government in New Delhi and has fuelled a nationwide debate about the prevalence of sexual crime in India, where a rape is reported on average every 20 minutes.
The woman died of her injuries on Saturday in hospital in Singapore, where she had been taken for treatment.
The five are accused of assaulting the woman on a bus in New Delhi, leaving her with such severe injuries that she died two weeks later. They were not present in court.
A sixth accused is under 18 and is due to be tried separately in a juvenile court.
A public prosecutor read out charges including murder, gang rape and criminal conspiracy. The court will examine the charges on Saturday, duty magistrate Surya Malik Grover said.
Murder carries the death penalty in India.
The father of the woman said earlier he backed the chorus of calls for those responsible to be executed.
"The whole country is demanding that these monsters be hanged. I am with them," the father told reporters in his home village of Mandwara Kalan in Uttar Pradesh state. The woman was born in the village but the family later moved to New Delhi.
She has not been identified and nor have members of her family, in accordance with Indian law.
In a sign of the depth of feeling surrounding the case, the bar association at the court said none of its members was willing to represent the accused. The court is expected to assign a defence lawyer for the men.
Advocates dressed in black robes protesting outside the court called for fast justice. In the northern state of Kashmir, school girls marched with black ribbons over their mouths and demanded harsh punishment for the accused.
The case is due to be processed by a new, fast-track chamber set up in response to the crime.
While the fast-track procedure has broad support, many lawyers worry new that legislation written in haste could be unconstitutional and oppose introducing the death penalty for rape.
"A swift trial should not be at the cost of a fair trial," India’s chief justice Altamas Kabir said yesterday.