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Central & South Asia

India gang-rape suspects charged with murder

Five men charged with rape and murder of 23-year-old student, with police saying they will push for death penalty.
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2013 12:44
The case has galvanised a wave of protests against gender violence across India [Reuters]

Indian police have filed rape and murder charges against five men accused in the gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus last month.

Police said on Thursday they plan to push for the death penalty in the case.

A sixth suspect is believed to be a juvenile and is expected to be tried in juvenile court.

The five were charged with raping the 23-year-old woman for hours and beating her companion as the bus drove through the capital.

Police arrested six people in the case and filed charges at a new fast-track court in south Delhi to deal specifically with crimes against women, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.

The December 16 attack on the woman, who later died of her injuries, has caused outrage across India and sparked demands for tough new rape laws, better police protection for women and a sustained campaign to change
society's views about women.

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 subjected to mob justice.

"Let us not lose sight of the fact that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty,'' he told reporters on 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.''

Commission of enquiry

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 work to provide justice as swiftly as possible "so that the message is sent to all and sundry that these matters are going to be dealt with seriously,'' Kabir said.

IN DEPTH
  Are women safe in India?
  Insensitive remarks add to India's rape shame
  The violence of rape
  Bus attack highlights India's rape epidemic
  India announces inquiry into Delhi gang-rape
  'Honour killings' bring dishonour to India

The government has set up three separate commissions to look into the incident and suggest changes in the law, with one minister suggesting new anti-rape legislation should be named after the victim.

This sparked a controversy as her name has not been disclosed in line with legal protections given to the victims of sex crime and their families, who face social stigma.

The brother of the victim, speaking from the family's home village in northern Uttar Pradesh state, said they would not object if the government wanted to name a new law after her.

"My father feels if they want to name the new law after her, they can go ahead, it will be like a tribute in her memory," he told the Indian Express newspaper.

The brother also pleaded that the family should be left alone to grieve their loss.

"The public anger is justified but my sister's story should not be made into a spectacle," he said.

A recent poll found India to be the worst in the G20 group of nations for women because of child marriage, abuse and female foeticide, which has led to a badly skewed sex ratio in the country of 1.2 billion people.

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