New Delhi: The Delhi Police have formally charged five men with the murder and rape of a young medical student in Delhi, whose assault and death united the country in sorrow, anger and a determination to press for stronger laws to protect women.
Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan has asked for a closed trial and requested that the court protect the identity and privacy of the student and her family. (Read)
Results of DNA tests conducted on the five men, aged 19 to 35, allegedly link them to the crime. They were not in court today. In addition to rape and murder, they have been charged with destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy. If convicted, they could face the death penalty. (DNA tests establish guilt, says prosecution)
A sixth man on the bus who has been arrested claims he is 17; unless a bone test proves otherwise, his case will be handled at a juvenile court where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility. (Arrested juvenile must be tried as an adult: lawyer)
The police has said it will work overtime to ensure its case is water-tight; the government has asseverated that a swift trial will be conducted to provide the harshest punishment to the guilty. But today there was some floundering.
The police showed up late at a district court in Saket in South Delhi. By that time, the Metropolitan Magistrate had left, which meant that the case could not be transferred to the fast-track court inaugurated yesterday specifically to handle crimes against women.
So the 35-page chargesheet with hundreds of pages of supporting documents will be filed now before the magistrate on Saturday, who will then assign the case to the fast-track court, though the judge who will try the case has yet to be selected.
The police blamed its late entry on unexpected delays in uploading documents onto a pen drive, which is likely to be submitted to court on Saturday.
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 Amanat 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.
(with inputs from Agencies)