Five men went on trial yesterday over the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in Delhi as the victim’s father urged the special fast-track court to deliver swift justice and sentence her attackers to hang.
With the case being held behind closed doors and subject to a gag order, it was left to one of the prosecutors to announce the start of the case to reporters packed outside the sessions court in New Delhi.
“The trial has begun,” Dayan Krishnan said. “The charge sheet has been submitted before the judge and the arguments will begin on Jan. 24.”
The trial is being held in a special “fast-track” court in the capital set up to circumvent India’s notoriously slow justice system, with the victim’s family leading widespread calls for quick closure on the horrifying case.
The start of the trial was delayed until late in the afternoon by a failed application to overturn the gag order, while a lawyer for one defendant also sought to move the trial out of New Delhi.
The father of the 23-year-old victim said her family would rest only once the culprits were convicted and hanged and he urged judge Yogesh Khanna to complete his work quickly.
“We have finished the mourning rituals for my daughter in the village, but our mourning will not end until the court passes down its verdict. My daughter’s soul will only rest in peace after the court punishes the men,” the father said. “It is the duty of the court and the judges to ensure that the final order to punish all the accused is handed down quickly and all the men are hanged. No man has the right to live after committing such a heinous crime.”
The assault last month on the medical student, who cannot be named for legal reasons, sparked mass protests across India — in particular in New Delhi, which has been dubbed the country’s “rape capital” over the incidence of such attacks.
Though gang rapes and sexual harassment are commonplace in India, the case has touched a nerve, leading to an outpouring of criticism of the treatment of women in Indian society.
Sonia Gandhi, president of India’s ruling Congress party, on Sunday condemned the “shameful” social attitudes that she said led to crimes like gang rape.
The New Delhi case had “shaken the entire country,” she added.
The five men face murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and other charges, with prosecutors expected to demand the death penalty. A sixth suspect, who claims he is 17, will be tried by a separate juvenile court.
Defense lawyers say they will enter not-guilty pleas and accuse police of torturing the adult defendants — aged between 19 and 35 — to confess.
The woman, a promising student whose father worked extra shifts as an airport baggage handler to educate her, suffered massive intestinal injuries during the assault on the bus in which she was raped and violated with an iron bar.
She died 13 days later after the government airlifted her to a Singapore hospital in a last-ditch bid to save her life.
In a move that could lead to a significant delay to proceedings, the Supreme Court yesterday agreed to consider a request to transfer the trial to a venue outside New Delhi.