A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest outside a
court in New Delhi yesterday. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
India's Supreme Court will hear a petition today by one
of the five men charged with the gang rape and murder of a
student in a bus to shift the case out of the capital on
grounds that the atmosphere was too surcharged to ensure a fair
Last month's assault on the 23-year-old woman on a New Delhi
bus triggered an outpouring of anger and grief and calls for
swift punishment for the five men and a juvenile who will be
y tried separately.
One of the accused, Mukesh Singh, approached the Supreme
Court urging the trial be held anywhere but New Delhi, saying
both the police and the judiciary were under intense public
pressure on the case and that a fair trial was not possible.
A bench headed by the Chief Justice Altamas Kabir would hear
the petition today, Singh's lawyer, Manohar Lal Sharma, said
The petition came as a fast-track court took up the case
against the five men who face the death penalty if convicted
of the assault on the woman, who was on her way home from a
movie, accompanied by a male friend.
The two were lured into the bus and beaten. The woman was so
badly assaulted that she died in a Singapore hospital two
The five men, who were produced in court on Monday, will
plead not guilty, according to their lawyers. Two defence
lawyers said their clients had been tortured in custody to
give confessions. Police have declined to comment on the
A.P. Singh, a lawyer for Vinay Sharma, one of the accused,
said that he had moved an application in the court, asking
for a bone test for his client, claiming he was a juvenile
and that he should be tried separately.
Sharma's age according to the police chargesheet has been
given as 20. Under Indian rape laws, anyone below the age of
18 has to be tried by a court dealing with juveniles and if
convicted has to be sent to a correctional home rather than
prison. The jail sentence is also a maximum of three years.
Police are already trying to reconfirm the age of an alleged
sixth member of the group who has given his age as 17.
The attack has so incensed ordinary Indians that some have
demanded that anyone above the age of 16 should be treated as
Another defence lawyer, V.K. Anand, said he had moved an
application urging the court to make its hearings open to the
media. Under Indian laws, a rape trial is usually held in
camera to protect the identity of the victim.
The case was adjourned until Thursday, when the court will
hear arguments over the charges that the police have brought
against the five men, all friends who allegedly went on a joy
ride on Dec. 16, looking for women.
Once the court has heard the arguments, it will frame the
charges against the men and at that point it will ask if they
plead guilty. If not, the trial will proceed.