New Delhi: A Delhi court has taken cognisance of the charges against the five men accused of the murder and rape of a 23-year-old medical student in the national capital, whose assault and death united the country in sorrow, anger and a determination to press for stronger laws to protect women.
The court has also issued production warrants to all the accused - Ram Singh, Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur - to appear before it on Monday at 12:30 pm. The next date of hearing has been fixed on January 10 at the Saket court.
The sixth accused in the case is 17 years old, according to a school document, and has been kept at a juvenile home since he was arrested. His matter will be taken up by the Juvenile Justice Board on Monday. (Arrested juvenile must be tried as an adult: lawyer)
In addition to rape and murder, the police have charged the five men with destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy. Results of DNA tests conducted on these five men, aged 19 to 35, allegedly link them to the crime. If convicted, they could face the death penalty. (DNA tests establish guilt, says prosecution)
"We have filed all the evidence," Rajiv Mohan, public prosecutor, told the court today.
"The blood of the victim tallied with the stains found on the clothes of the accused," he added, saying that police had recovered possessions stolen from the medical student and her friend, who were thrown out of the vehicle at the end of their ordeal.
Mr Mohan has asked for a closed trial and requested that the court protect the identity and privacy of the woman and her family. (Read)
The evidence presented by the police will include testimony recorded by the student while she was critical in hospital, and the account of her male friend who was with her on the bus they boarded after watching The Life of Pi at a South Delhi mall.
Six men, allegedly drunk, then began assaulting them with an iron rod before they gang-raped the student. An hour later, they threw the couple onto the road. The police says that the man driving the bus tried to run the young girl over, but her friend managed to push her out of the way. He has reportedly recovered from his injuries and is helping the investigation.
The attack wounded and shamed India, triggering public demand for tough new rape laws, better police protection for women and faster trials for cases of sexual assault. Students have led near-daily protests in Delhi. (Sign petition here for women's safety)
A series of missteps by the government in its handling of public sorrow and rage over the student's case deepened the perception that it is estranged from the people. A committee of legal experts, headed by retired Supreme Court judge JS Verma, is reviewing criminal laws and will suggest what changes can or should be made for laws that handle sexual assault crimes. The team will submit its report within a month.