A judge in Delhi has ruled that the media will not be allowed to attend the trial of the five men accused of raping and murdering a young medical student on a Delhi bus last month. The next hearing of the case has been set for Thursday.
The accused were brought to the court complex in the morning with heavy security cover and were kept in a prison cell within the court premises. At about 2 pm, the judge said there was no space for them to be brought into the court-room, which can seat about 30 but had more than 150 people crammed in, many of them lawyers and reporters.
"It has become impossible for this court to conduct proceedings in this case," magistrate Namrita Aggarwal said, ordering anyone not directly connected to the case to exit.
The men, who could face the death penalty if convicted, arrived after that in the court-room. They were given copies of the police's chargesheet. After a decision has been made on who will represent them, the case will be assigned to a fast-track court set up last week specially to handle this trial and expedite other cases of crimes against women.
Throughout the day, the proceedings were punctuated by lawyers shouting against an advocate who has volunteered to defend the accused. The Saket Bar Association had said none of its members would defend the men accused of the crime that united India in anger and grief, corroborated by large protests in cities like Delhi.
ML Sharma said the families of the accused had approached him to defend them. Other advocates dismissed him as a publicity-seeker.
The police has said it has forensic evidence to establish the guilt of the defendants. A sixth man who was on the bus, who is 17, is to be tried in a separate court for juveniles. The police says he was the most depraved of the group.
On December 16, the student and her boyfriend watched a movie at a South Delhi mall. They then boarded a school bus that was running illegally at night. The driver, according to the police, had decided to go for "a joyride" with his friends. The couple were led to believe the school bus was a private or chartered bus, hundreds of which operate in Delhi to compensate for thin public transport.
Once they boarded the bus, the six men allegedly hit them with an iron rod before taking turns to rape the young woman. The pair were then thrown out of the moving vehicle.
(with inputs from Agencies)