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Packed court for India's rape-murder case

Publication Date : 08-01-2013


Magistrate orders room cleared as 5 men brought in amid tight security


The five men accused of raping and murdering a 23-year-old physiotherapy student after she boarded their bus last month appeared in court amid high drama.

So many lawyers, journalists and onlookers crammed into the courtroom yesterday that there was little space for the accused to be brought in, prompting the magistrate to order the room cleared.

An angry exchange of words took place between lawyers representing the accused and those who said the accused did not deserve representation. Lawyers of the local bar association have asked its members not to defend the accused.

Metropolitan magistrate Namrita Aggarwal finally ordered that the proceedings be conducted in camera and ordered everyone not directly connected with the case to leave the courtroom, which is located across the street from the cinema where the victim watched a film before boarding the bus.

In camera means the court proceedings will not be open to the public and media.

"It is a case of virtually the crowd occupying every inch of space in the court," said the magistrate. "The courtroom has become jampacked, there is lot of disturbance created from different groups and corners."

The magistrate also restrained the media from reporting any court proceedings without the court's permission.

After the court was cleared, Ram Singh, 33, his brother Mukesh, 26, along with Pawan Gupta, 19, Vinay Sharma, 20 and Akshay Thakur, 28, were brought in amid tight security. All had their faces covered. The police have charged them with murder, rape, gang rape, unnatural offences and robbery among a host of charges.

The five men are accused of raping and beating up the physiotherapy student on a moving bus on December 16. A male friend who was with her was also beaten up and is now the key witness in the case.

The next hearing will be on Thursday. A sixth accused, who is said to be a minor, was produced before a juvenile board yesterday.

The victim later died of her injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital, where she was flown for treatment.

Meanwhile, the Home Ministry ordered a probe into allegations made by the male friend that police officers had argued over who would take them to hospital even as they lay bleeding and naked on a Delhi road. The police have denied the allegation, saying they responded within minutes.

The father of the victim also denied a British newspaper report that he wanted his daughter to be named. He said he only wanted her name to be known if the government named a new law after her.

In India it is illegal to name rape victims.

The prosecution said they have strong evidence linking the five accused to the rape and beating; police have recovered the rod used in the attack and have DNA evidence including the victim's blood on the accused's clothing.

The attack led to a national outcry with the government forced to look at toughening rape laws, making police more responsive to crimes against women, and hastening trials.

Though the protests have thinned, smaller groups have still been protesting at Jantar Mantar observatory, the site of protests.

Yesterday, Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir asked all high courts to set up fast-track courts to deal with crimes against women.

Justice Kabir said the Delhi gang rape had left an indelible mark and the "time has come for these cases to be dealt with expeditiously."


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