Five accused of Delhi gang rape and murder plead not guilty

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Students in Delhi protesting against rape and for new laws for womens' rights.
Image: Nilanjana Roy.

Five men pleaded not guilty yesterday to the rape and murder of a 23-year-old Delhi student. They face 13 charges and the death penalty in a specially set up "fast track court".

The accused, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Kumar, Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh and Akshay Thakur, signed statements in the court declaring their innocence. The five men could face the death penalty if convicted. The men, on Saturday filed in to the court room with their faces covered, and are next expected to be back in court for a hearing on Monday for the formal start of the trial.

A sixth accused, who is believed to be a 17-year-old, will be tried in a juvenile court and faces a maximum sentence of three years in a reform facility if found guilty. A juvenile board said it accepted school records showing the juvenile as having been born on June 4, 1995. Police had been seeking a bone ossification test, suspecting that he is older than 17; however, the board rejected it stating that it would not be necessary.

The victim, a 23-year-old medical student, and a male friend were attacked after boarding a bus on December 16 in South Delhi. Police said that the six men accused, beat her male friend with a metal bar and raped her. The victims were then thrown from the bus naked on the roadside and the woman died from internal injuries two weeks later in Singapore.

The attack set off protests nationwide, sparking debates about the treatment of women in India. On Friday, the Indian cabinet approved an ordinance to introduce harsher penalties for crimes against women, including the death penalty in extreme cases of rape. It also approved increasing the maximum seven year sentence for rape to twenty years as well as stricter punishments for crimes such as stalking, cyber stalking and voyeurism. Ashwani Kumar the Indian Law Minister, said, "We have taken swift action and hope these steps will make women feel safer in the country."