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Thursday 26 April 2018

India gang-rape: bus driver 'commits suicide' in prison

The principal accused in the fatal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in New Delhi last December has apparently committed suicide in jail.

An investigation is underway today after the main accused in the Delhi gang-rape case was found dead in his jail cell.

Officials at Delhi’s Tihar jail confirmed that the body of Ram Singh, 33, a bus driver, was discovered at around 4.45am. He had apparently hanged himself from the grille in his cell using his bedding items. He was sharing the cell with three other inmates

“This is being inquired into by the judicial magistrate. Only then will we know what happened,” said Sunil Gupta, the prison’s legal officer. “He was in a cell with three other accused – accused from a different case. He was not under suicide watch.”

The apparent suicide of Mr Singh, the man accused of leading the six-strong group that attacked and raped a 23-year-old student and beat her male friend last December, is deeply embarrassing for the Indian authorities and for officials at Tihar jail.

The trial of the five men has been taking place at a specially-established fast-track court in the city and the authorities had vowed to deliver justice to the family of the murdered student and to the nation. The attack on the young woman outraged India and triggered a deep debate about the position of women in Indian society.

The courts had ordered that Mr Singh and the four other adults charged in the Delhi gang-rape trial be placed under suicide.

“Singh was not alone in the cell. Other inmates were present and a guard was also posted. But nobody came to know about it. Around 5am, he was found hanging,” a senior jail official told the Press Trust of India.

Officials said it would be impossible to say conclusively whether or not Mr Singh, who was being held in Jail 3 of the prison complex, had taken his own life until post-mortem tests were concluded A meeting between India’s home minister, Sushi Kumar Shinde, and Delhi’s chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, was scheduled for this morning when the matter was to be discussed.

“There is already an inquiry which has been ordered by Tihar jail on suicide of the main accused. We are enquiring into the matter,” RPN Singh, a minister in India’s ministry of home affairs, told reporters

Yet Mr Singh’s lawyer said he did not believe his client had taken his own life. He told The Independent that just two days ago, Mr Singh had met his five-year-old son in the court building and had appeared content.

“We do not think he committed suicide. He was bold, he was very happy, two days ago when I last saw him,” said Mr Anand, who claimed the police had been pressuring Mr Singh to change his lawyer. “Why would be commit suicide?....It’s foul play on the part of the jail authorities.”

Reports on Indian television said that the family of Ram Singh had called for an independent investigation into the suspect’s death by India’s federal investigation agency.

Meanwhile, the family of the physiotherapy student, who died two weeks after the attack on December 16, told the AFP they believed the jail authorities at Tihar were guilty of negligence.

“We don’t understand how could the police fail to protect Ram Singh. They knew he was the prime accused in my daughter's case,” said Badri Singh, the father of the young woman. “How could they let him choose the way he wanted to die? The police have failed and I wonder what will happen to the case now.”

The woman and a male friend were attacked after boarding a bus driven by Ram Singh as they tried to return home after watching a film.

Five adults and a juvenile allegedly beat the man with a metal bar, raped the woman and used the bar to inflict massive internal injuries to her. The two victims were dumped naked on the roadside, and the woman died from her injuries two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

In a statement taken by police, Ram Singh said that having repeatedly assaulted her, he tried to kill the young woman and her companion so they would be unable to identify their attackers. Later, they cleaned the bus and burned the victims’ clothes in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

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