The lawyers of the accused have claimed that in Delhi, the government and the judiciary are feeling the weight of tremendous public pressure. "There is pressure to hang all the accused. Even children are asking when the accused will be hanged," ML Sharma, the lawyer for Mukesh Singh, the man who was allegedly driving the bus on which 'Amanat' (NOT her real name) was gang-raped, told the Supreme Court yesterday. He was referring to protests that are held regularly in Delhi where students and activists are calling for swift justice in the case and tougher anti-rape laws. The lawyer says his client wants the trial to be shifted to Mathura, Bangalore or Coimbatore.
Speaking to NDTV yesterday, Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir described the attack as "the most shameful thing that could have happened" and said he "salutes everybody who took part" in the protests that followed the heinous assault. "I wish I could have also been there but I can't," he added. (Watch video here)
The fast-track court handling the trial of the five accused has said the trial, scheduled to begin on Thursday, will be held in-camera or behind closed doors. The court was commissioned a few weeks ago to handle this case and others involving crimes against women.
The five men, who are under arrest in Tihar Jail, were brought to the special court yesterday to face charges including kidnapping and destruction of evidence. If convicted, they could face the death penalty. A sixth suspect in the attack claims to be a juvenile and his case is being handled separately.
The pre-trial proceedings were handled by a city court that ruled the proceedings would be off-limits to the media and to anyone, partly because the prosecutors emphasised that the men arrested for the crime could be attacked while being brought to court. The judge of the fast-track court, Yogesh Khanna, said yesterday that order will hold in his court room as well. Defense lawyers however want the court to be opened to the public.
On December 16, 'Amanat' and her male friend boarded a bus to head home after watching a movie at a South Delhi mall. The six men already on the bus, including the driver, sexually harassed the young woman and then hit her friend with an iron rod when he tried to intervene. The same rod was used on her before the men allegedly took turns to rape her. An hour later, they flung the couple onto the road. Amanat died two weeks after the attack.
The brutal attack unified India in anger and shock. For almost two weeks after the assault, massive protests cascaded across India. The government initially grossly misgauged public sentiment, and refused to connect with the students marching in the streets; later, the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi promised severe punishment for the guilty and a speedy trial.