Lawyers shout slogans as they hold placards and a banner
during a protest outside a district court in New Delhi
demanding the Indian juducial system act faster against
rape. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Five Indian men have been formally charged in court with
the gang rape and murder of a physiotherapy student in a case
that has generated widespread anger about the government's
inability to prevent violence against women.
The December 16 attack on the 23-year-old 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 in hospital in Singapore,
where she had been taken for treatment, on Saturday.
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
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
"A swift trial should not be at the cost of a fair trial,"
Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said on Wednesday.
Police have said the accused have admitted to torturing and
raping the student "to teach her a lesson". She fought back
and bit three of them, a police source told Reuters, and the
bite marks are part of the evidence against them.
After throwing her from the private bus, the driver tried to
run the victim over but she was pulled away by her companion,
a senior police official told Reuters.
Police have prepared a dossier of evidence and charges
against the accused, which is believed to run to 1000 pages,
including testimony from the woman's friend who survived the
hour-long attack and a man who said he was robbed by the same
gang prior to the rape.
Days of protests in New Delhi and other cities followed the
attack. Many of the protesters have been students, infuriated
by what they see as the failure of the government to protect
In the northeastern state of Assam on Wednesday, village
women beat a politician and handed him to police for what
they said was the attempted rape of a woman, police said.
Anti-rape protests have also broken out in neighbouring
The government has set up two panels headed by retired judges
to recommend measures to ensure women's safety. One of the
panels, due to make recommendations this month, has received
some 17,000 suggestions from the public, media reported.
India's chief justice inaugurated the first fast-track court
for sexual offences on Wednesday - a long standing demand of
activists to clear a court backlog.
A review of India's penal code, which dates back to 1860, was
presented to parliament last month, before the attack, and
widens the definition of rape, another demand of activists.
That bill is now likely to be revised further, with chemical
castration and the death penalty in rape cases among
proposals under consideration.
"We want the laws to be amended in such a stringent way that
before a person even thinks of touching a girl, he should
feel chills down his spine," said lawyer Suman Lata Katiyal,
protesting at the south Delhi courthouse.
Hanging is only allowed in the "rarest of rare" cases
according to a 1983 Supreme Court ruling. It was used for the
first time in eight years in November when the lone surviving
gunman from a 2008 militant attack on Mumbai, Mohammad Ajmal
Kasab from Pakistan, was executed.