Delhi gang rape case to begin in fast-track court

BY: Abigail Bonsu

The fast-tracked trial of five men over the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman is due to start in Delhi.

A sixth suspect, who is thought to be 17, is expected to be tried in a juvenile court.

The case has shocked India and sparked a debate about the treatment of women. If convicted, the men could face the death penalty.

A lawyer for one of the accused says he plans to petition the Supreme Court to transfer the case out of Delhi.

VK Anand, representing Ram Singh, says the the intense media attention could lead to an unfair trial.

"We are sure we will not get justice in Delhi," he said.

The other men accused have been named as Mr Singh's brother, Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur.

Separately, the mother of the woman has condemned comments suggesting that her daughter was responsible for her fate.

She told the BBC that those politicians who had expressed such views were "sexist and irresponsible" and effectively endorsed such crimes.

'Extensive evidence'
The brutal assault on the young woman has led to nationwide protests on the treatment of women in India and the government has said it will bring in stronger sexual assault laws.

It has also promised to fast-track future rape cases. Legal proceedings in India sometimes involve years of delays.

The government announced last week it was setting up six fast-track courts in Delhi to allow crimes against women to be dealt with swiftly.

Last week another lawyer claimed that the men had been tortured and coerced into confessing they were guilty. Officials refused to comment on the allegations, citing legal restrictions.

The lawyers for two of the suspects have said they will plead not guilty. It is unclear how the three accused will plead. Prosecutors have said they have extensive forensic evidence.

The victim, a physiotherapy student who cannot be named in India for legal reasons, and a male friend were attacked on a bus in south Delhi on 16 December. She died two weeks later in hospital in Singapore.

Campaigners are calling for tougher rape laws and reforms to the police, who - critics say - often fail to file charges against accused attackers.

The government has said that it will bring in stronger sexual assault laws and has established several committees to recommend changes in the law.  - BBC