Published on 3 Jan 2013 Sections ,

Delhi gang rape suspects charged

Indian police file rape and murder charges against five men accused of the gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus.

Students hold candles as they pray during a candlelight vigil for a gang rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi, in Ahmedabad (Reuters)

A sixth suspect is believed to be a juvenile and is expected to be tried in juvenile court. Police say they plan to push for the death penalty in the case.

The five were charged on Thursday with raping the 23-year-old woman for hours and beating her companion as the bus drove through the capital. The woman died Saturday in a hospital in Singapore from massive internal injuries.

The attack on the woman has sparked demands for tough new rape laws, better police protection for women and a sustained campaign to change society’s views about women.

Indian Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said the accused should be tried swiftly, but cautioned that they needed to be given a fair trial and not subjected to mob justice.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” he told reporters on Wednesday, while inaugurating a new fast-track court.

“Let us balance things. Let us not get carried away. Provide justice in a fair but swift manner so that faith of people is once again restored that the judiciary is there behind the common man.”

Read more: Arundhati Roy speaks out against Indian rape culture

A turning point?

Authorities in the state of Punjab dismissed two police officers and suspended a third last week on accusations they delayed investigating a different reported gang rape and harassed the victim of that case, who then killed herself.

Women’s activists hope that the rape and killing of the university student last month will mark a turning point in India’s behavior toward women. The victim, whose name has not been revealed, was attacked after boarding a bus with a male companion after watching an evening showing of the movie “Life of Pi.”

The vehicle was a charter bus that illegally picked up the two passengers, authorities said. The driver was among the six arrested.

The pair were attacked for hours as the bus drove through the city, even passing through police checkpoints during the assault. They were eventually dumped naked on the side of the road. The woman, who was assaulted with an iron bar, suffered severe internal injuries that eventually caused her to die on Saturday at a hospital in Singapore.

Media reports say police have gathered 30 witnesses, and the charges have been detailed in a document running more than 1,000 pages. Police also detained the owner of the bus used in the crime on accusations that he used false documents to obtain permits to run the private bus service.

Since the attack, women have held near-daily protests and candle-light vigils in New Delhi, demanding action be taken to stop the daily harassment they face, from groping to even more violent attacks.