'Amanat' case: Judge gags lawyers

New Delhi A judge hearing the case of five men accused of the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi barred lawyers from speaking to the press today on the second day of the trial.

"The court has strictly ordered us to refrain from sharing details about the case," lawyer VK Anand told AFP outside the Saket district court in New Delhi, where the suspects made a second appearance on Thursday.

Rape cases are usually held behind closed doors in India and the judge has approved an extra legal measure which prevents the media from reporting on court proceedings, despite the huge public interest in the case.

On Thursday, after a complaint from the prosecutor that defence lawyers were not complying with the order and were sharing details with journalists waiting outside the court, the judge warned that they could be breaking the law.

"I have already passed an order," Judge Yogesh Khanna told reporters after the hearing. "If you are not happy with the order you can challenge it in the court."

Though sexual harassment is commonplace in India, the gang-rape of 23-year-old Amanat (NOT her real name) has touched a nerve, sparking protests and an outpouring of criticism about the systemic mistreatment of women in Indian society.

The woman, who was also assaulted with an iron rod, died of massive internal injuries 13 days after the December 16 attack, prompting widespread public demands for India to introduce the death penalty for rapists.

The five men face charges including murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping, with prosecutors expected to demand the death penalty. A sixth suspect, who claims he is 17, will appear before a juvenile court.

The trial is being held in a fast-track court to circumvent India's notoriously slow and clogged-up justice system. The victim's family is leading widespread calls for quick closure on the horrifying case.
 
Story First Published: January 24, 2013 18:19 IST

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