Friday 19 December 2014

India rape trial start date is set

Published 21/01/2013 | 09:40

A Delhi police van, believed to be carrying the five men accused of raping and murdering a woman on a bus, comes out of a district court in New Delhi (AP)

The New Dehli bus rape and murder trial will be held behind closed doors, a judge has ruled.

The case is now due to start on Thursday and should avoid the long delays commonly associated with India's justice system, after a brief hearing on Monday.

Judge Yogesh Khanna denied a defence application to make the proceedings public because of the sensitive nature of the crime. The hearing was the first since the case was moved to a new fast-track court set up to deal specifically with crimes against women.

The five defendants' faces were covered by scarves as they arrived in the court, surrounded by police. A sixth suspect claims to be a juvenile and his case is being handled separately.

The judge told the lawyers to prepare for opening statements to begin on Thursday and agreed to hold the trial every day throughout the week, instead of allowing the gaps of weeks and months between hearings common in other courts.

Defence lawyers are awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court on their motion to move the trial outside New Delhi because of the strong emotions in the city.

The victim and her fiance were going home from an evening out on December 16 when they boarded a bus where they were attacked by six men. The attackers beat the man and raped the woman, causing her massive injuries with a metal bar. The victims were eventually dumped on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later in hospital.

The attack has sparked demands for wholesale changes in the way the country deals with crimes against women. Many families pressure relatives who have been assaulted not to press charges, police often refuse to file cases for those who do and the few cases filed often get bogged down in India's court system, which had a backlog of 33 million cases in 2011.

In a sign of the sluggish pace of justice, only one of the 635 rape cases filed in the capital last year has ended in a conviction so far. Police said that many other cases were pending and it was not realistic to expect crimes committed late last year to have wound their way through the system yet.

New Delhi set up five fast-track courts in recent weeks to deal specifically with sexual assault cases, and the rape case is being heard in one of them.

Press Association

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