Court frames charges on Delhi gang-rape case
Five accused plead not guilty, face death sentence
Source: The Sangai Express / Agencies
New Delhi, February 02 2013 :
Five men pleaded not guilty on Saturday to charges they raped and murdered a trainee physiotherapist, in a case that led to a shake-up of laws against sexual crimes after protests about a rising number of attacks on women.
Police say the gang lured the 23-year-old woman onto a bus in New Delhi, where they repeatedly raped and assaulted her with a metal bar before throwing her bleeding onto a highway.
She died of internal injuries two weeks after the December 16 attack.
Witnesses reported seeing the men file into the court room with their faces covered, where lawyers in the case said they were read thirteen charges including murder, which carries a maximum penalty of death.
They left after 15 minutes.
"After the judge read out the charges, the five pleaded not guilty and walked out" said AP Singh, a lawyer defending two of the accused, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur.
Singh said the prosecution will call three witnesses to the next hearing on Tuesday, which is the formal start of the trial.
The prosecution says it has strong evidence against the five men including blood stained clothing, DNA matches, mobile phone records, confessions and eye-witness statements.
Singh says Sharma was never on the bus and Thakur was hiding beneath a seat and never took part in the crime.
The other men brothers Ram and Mukesh Singh and Pawan Kumar are represented by two other lawyers.
Mukesh Singh has replaced a lawyer who claimed his client was tortured in police custody, and no longer claims mistreatment.
A sixth person police say was part of the gang that attacked the woman and her friend is a juvenile and will be tried separately.
The sixth suspect, who is 17 years old, will be tried in a juvenile court and could face a maximum sentence of three years in a reform facility if convicted.
A conviction as an adult could have led to his execution.
The six men, the only occupants of the private bus, beat the man with a metal bar, raped the woman and used the bar to inflict massive internal injuries to her, police say.
The victims were dumped naked on the roadside, and the woman died from her injuries two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
The brutality of the attack was shocking even to a nation inured to a rising wave of sexual crimes against women.
Thousands of young protesters took to the streets in the weeks that followed.
In response to the public outcry, on Friday the Union Cabinet fast-tracked new, tougher penalties for sex crimes.
Under the new rules, due to be signed into law by the President in the coming days, gang rape that leads to death will be punishable by death while minimum penalties will be raised to 20 years for gang rape and rape of a minor.
The laws must later be ratified by Parliament.
The five accused are: bus driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, fruit seller Pawan Gupta, gym instructor Vinay Sharma and bus cleaner Akshay Thakur.
All of them are now in Tihar Central Jail.
The hearing in the case had started Jan 21 at the fast-track court which was set up to try the case.
The accused were formally charged in the Saket court 18 days after they gang-raped and tortured the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern.
The chargesheet, with annexures, runs into thousands of pages and includes the victim's statement, details of the accused, evidence and forensic reports.
Police have charged the five accused under 13 sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 376 (2)(g) (gang-rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 395 (dacoity), 396 (murder in dacoity), 365 (kidnapping or abduction with intent to secretly or wrongfully confine a person), 394 (hurting in dacoity), 201 (destruction of evidence), 120B (conspiracy), 34 (common intention), 412 (dishonestly receiving stolen property), and 397 (robbery or dacoity with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt) .