THE FATHER OF a student who died after being gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi called for swift justice and for her attackers to be hanged as five men accused of her murder prepared to go on trial Monday.
A defence lawyer tried to persuade India’s top court that the trial should be shifted out of the capital, but the father of the 23-year-old victim said her family would only rest once a fast-track court had handed down its verdict.
“We have finished the mourning rituals for my daughter in the village but our mourning will not end until the court passes down its verdict. My daughter’s soul will only rest in peace after the court punishes the men,” the father told AFP.
It is the duty of the court and the judges to ensure that the final order to punish all the accused is handed down quickly and all the men are hanged. No man has the right to live after committing such a heinous crime.
The assault last month on the medical student, who cannot be named for legal reasons, sparked mass protests across India – in particular in New Delhi which has been dubbed the country’s “rape capital” over the incidence of such attacks.
The trial is being held in a fast-track court to circumvent India’s notoriously slow justice system, with the victim’s family leading widespread calls for quick closure on the horrifying case.
But in a move that could lead to a significant delay to proceedings, the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a request to transfer the trial to a venue outside New Delhi.
ML Sharma, counsel for defendant Mukesh Singh, said it would be impossible for his client to receive a fair hearing in the city where the December 16 attack took place.
The application for a transfer will be considered by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, but in the meantime proceedings are expected to go ahead in the fast-track court, starting at 2:30 pm (9am GMT).
The five men face murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and other charges, with prosecutors expected to demand the death penalty. A sixth suspect, who claims he is 17, will be tried by a separate juvenile court.
Defence lawyers say they will enter not-guilty pleas and accuse police of torturing the adult defendants – aged between 19 and 35 – to confess.
But prosecutors say they have DNA evidence linking the defendants to the attack in which the student and a male companion were assaulted on a bus as it was driven around the city, having been picked up after seeing a movie.
The prosecutors also have the victim’s hospital-bed declaration before her death and testimony from her 28-year-old companion who took part in identification parades after the ordeal.
Senior prosecutor Rajiv Mohan, who has vowed to seek the death penalty for the “heinous” crime, has said that “we have sufficient evidence against all the accused” to secure a conviction.
The woman, a promising student whose father worked extra shifts as an airport baggage handler to educate her, suffered massive intestinal injuries during the assault in which she was raped and violated with an iron bar. She died 13 days later after the government airlifted her to a Singapore hospital in a last-ditch bid to save her life.
Though gang-rapes and sexual harassment are commonplace in India, the case has touched a nerve, leading to an outpouring of criticism of the treatment of women in Indian society and the apparent rise in violent sex crime in recent years.
During previous hearings in the lower city court, proceedings were subject to a media blocking order that prevented journalists from revealing events inside the court room.
Defence lawyer VK Anand told AFP he would contest the reporting ban, saying “this trial should be transparent”.
India says it only imposes the death penalty in the “rarest of rare cases”. Two months ago, it hanged the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks — the country’s first execution in eight years.