Delhi gang-rape: Trial to continue in fast-track court

Doctors testify in fast-track court

A fast-track court will on Monday continue its hearing in the brutal Delhi gang-rape case.
 
Notably, five of the six accused are being tried for charges of rape and murder of a 23-year-old student. The trial in the fast-track court began on February 05, around 50 days after the medical student's brutal rape.
 
The fast-track court started day-to-day trial in the case last week after framing charges of murder, gang-rape and kidnapping, among others, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the five accused.
 
The gang-rape victim's male friend, a software engineer, who was also attacked along with her on the bus, also appeared as a witness in the court on a wheelchair accompanied by his father.
 
The case of one juvenile accused is being heard by the Juvenile Justice Board.

The court had earlier restricted media from reporting the proceedings in the case and ordered an in-camera trial.

Doctors testify in fast-track court

Four doctors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) testified in the gang-rape case before the fast-track court. 

The medics had conducted conducted Medico Legal Certificate (MLC) test of five of the accused, reported indiatvnews.com.

Two doctors of Safdarjung Hospital, who treated the victim, were also summoned to the court on Saturday. 

Earlier, the girl's male friend and the only eye-witness to the gory assault had testified in court. He is yet to be cross-examined by the defence.  

EARLIER STORY: India fails to check rampant sexual abuse of children

India's government has failed to curb the rampant sexual abuse of children, especially in schools and state-run child care facilities, a rights group said Thursday.

Human Rights Watch cited in its report the recent fatal gang-rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus in December, an attack the shook the conscience of the nation and forced people to introspect on the way women are treated in India.

The outcry forced the government to rush through new laws to protect women. A government panel appointed after the attack to examine the country's treatment of women also shone a light on the high incidence of child sexual abuse and the failure of the government to ensure the implementation of child protection laws.

Child rights activists say the government needs to implement the panel's recommendations on preventing child sexual abuse as well.

The new report from Human Rights Watch said such abuse is disturbingly common, government responses are falling short in protecting children and in treating victims. The report urges the government to ensure rigorous implementation of child protection laws and strict monitoring of child care facilities. It calls for an end to traumatic medical examinations and insensitive treatment by police and other authorities, which subject victims to further distress.

There are no clear statistics on the number of child abuse cases in India, primarily because of the low reporting of such crimes. India's ministry of women and child said in 2007 that around 70 percent of abused children never reported the matter to anyone.

Despite the low reporting levels, the ministry then said 53.2 percent, or one out of two, children in India, reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. This statistic is even worse for state-run or -funded homes, activists said.

"The vulnerability of children to sexual abuse is very high, and it becomes worse because there is nobody monitoring these children's homes," said Anuja Gupta of the Recovering and Healing from Incest, or RAHI, Foundation in New Delhi.

She said in many child care facilities, the abuse was committed by the people in charge of taking care of the child.

"When the caretaker himself is the abuser, the situation is especially traumatic because then the child has nowhere to go," Gupta said.

Human Rights Watch said the inspections of state-run child facilities were inadequate, with many facilities not registered with the government as mandated by the law.

"Shockingly the very institutions that should protect vulnerable children can place them at risk of horrific child sexual abuse," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director, Human Rights Watch.

While the government in 2012 passed a comprehensive law to protect children from sexual offenses, its efforts to implement the law remained poor or nonexistent, activists say.

While child abuse is a problem elsewhere, in India it is further aggravated by poorly trained police officers who refuse to register complaints or encourage the victims to seek a settlement. Convictions are rare and cases can languish in the country's sluggish criminal and judicial process for years, if not decades.

Victim's friend testifies; Girl died but awakened nation, says father

The companion of an Indian medical student who died after being gang-raped identified Tuesday the bus on which the attack took place as he testified in the trial of five adults accused of her murder.

The 28-year-old, confined to a wheelchair as a result of injuries sustained in the attack, confirmed that a white bus was the vehicle on which the deadly assault took place on December 16, his father told AFP.

"Yes, my son could identify the bus. The cross-examination is going to start now," said the father, whose son cannot be named for legal reasons.
Although proceedings are subject to a gagging order, police allowed reporters to see the young man being taken in the company of lawyers and the judge to the bus which has been parked in the court compound.

No photographs were allowed.

He then returned inside the courtroom where he was expected to be cross-examined by lawyers for the five adult accused, who have all denied murder, rape and robbery charges.

A sixth defendant is being tried separately as a juvenile.

"My son will go to any lengths to ensure that the guilty are punished," the father had earlier told AFP as the two of them entered the courtroom in the Saket district.

"He will cooperate and is prepared to answer any questions posed by the defence."

The 23-year-old medical student died in a Singapore hospital on December 29 from massive internal injuries she sustained during the savage bus assault a fortnight earlier which caused outrage across India.

She and her companion had spent the evening at the cinema and were lured onto the off-duty bus after failing to flag down an autorickshaw to take them home.

As well as taking turns to rape the woman and violating her with a rusty iron bar, the group attacked her companion so badly that he is still unable to walk properly.

He is the main witness in a case that is being held in a special fast-track court.

The judge has banned all reporting of proceedings inside the courtroom and ordered lawyers not to speak to journalists.

Meanwhile the father of the student spoke of the toll that the case had taken on him and reiterated his desire to see his daughter's killers hanged as he appeared at a press conference.

"I don't read newspapers or watch TV. I only want that all the six people should be hanged," he said.

"I have not been able to sleep for three days. I am running fever. I have pain in the legs."

The father was speaking at a press conference organised by local leaders of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party who want to name a new science museum in Delhi after her.

"We will do everything that will give respect and dignity to her memory. We want her to become a symbol of change in the society," the BJP leader in Delhi Vijender Gupta said at the press conference.

Five main accused plead not guilty

Five men pleaded not guilty on Saturday to charges they gang raped and murdered an Indian trainee physiotherapist, in a case that led to a shake-up of laws against sexual crimes after protests about a rising number of attacks on women. 

A Reuters witness saw the men file into the court room with their faces covered, where lawyers in the case said they were read thirteen charges including murder, which carries a maximum penalty of death. They left after 15 minutes. 

"After the judge read out the charges, the five pleaded not guilty and walked out" said A P Singh, a lawyer defending two of the accused, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur. 

Singh said the next hearing will be held on Feb. 5, when the prosecution will call three witnesses to the formal start of the trial. 

A sixth person police say was part of the gang that attacked the woman and her friend is a juvenile and will be tried separately. 

Police say the gang lured the 23-year-old physiotherapy student onto a bus, where they repeatedly raped and assaulted her with a metal bar before throwing her bleeding onto a highway. She died of internal injuries two weeks later. 

India's cabinet has approved harsher punishments for rapists, including the death penalty, after a brutal gang-rape in New Delhi that sparked national outrage.

A government-appointed panel recommended the changes to ministers after the death of a 23-year-old woman who was savagely raped and attacked in a bus on December 16 and died nearly two weeks later.

The case ignited nationwide demonstrations by protesters demanding better safety for women.

The changes, which must be approved by President Pranab Mukherjee to become law, include doubling the minimum sentence for gang-rape and imposing the death penalty when the victim is killed or left in a vegetative state.

"We have taken swift action and hope these steps will make women feel safer in the country," Law Minister Ashwani Kumar told reporters late on Friday.

"This is a progressive piece of legislation and is consistent with the felt sensitivities of the nation in the aftermath of the outrageous gang-rape," he added.

The changes to the rape laws are expected to be approved by Mukherjee as early as this weekend but must be ratified by parliament or they will lapse.

Under the changes, the minimum sentence for gang-rape, rape of a minor, rape by policemen or a person in authority will be doubled to 20 years from 10 and can be extended to life without parole.

Under the current law, a rapist faces a term of seven to 10 years.

The cabinet has also created a new set of offences such as voyeurism and stalking that will be included in the new law.

Five men are being tried in a special fast-track court in New Delhi on charges of murder, kidnapping and rape in connection with the death of the student, who died after being airlifted to a Singapore hospital.

A sixth suspect faces trial in a juvenile court.

India says it only imposes the death penalty in the "rarest of rare cases".

Three months ago, it hanged the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks -- the country's first execution in eight years. 

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