3rd gang rape accused to plead not guilty

2013-01-09 13:01

New Delhi - Three of the men accused of raping and murdering an Indian student in a case that has provoked widespread anger with the government and police will plead not guilty, their lawyer said on Wednesday, citing lapses in the police investigation.

The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died two weeks after being beaten and gang-raped on a moving bus in New Delhi, then thrown bleeding onto the street. Protests followed, along with a fierce public debate over the failure of authorities to stem violence against women.

Five men are facing various charges including murder, rape and abduction. A sixth suspect is being investigated separately to determine if he is below the age of 18, as he says he is.

Lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma, who is representing the bus driver, who is the main accused, his brother and another man, said he was keen for the case to go to trial so that the evidence police had presented could be tested in court.

‘Manipulated evidence’

"We will plead not guilty. We want this to go to trial," Sharma said.

"We are only hearing what the police are saying. This is manipulated evidence. It's all on the basis of hearsay and presumption."

It is not known if the other two of the five accused men have a lawyer.

Charges against the sixth member of the group have not been brought while police complete an inquiry to confirm his age. If he is found to be below 18 he will be tried in a juvenile court and if convicted will go to a correctional home, not a prison, to serve a maximum term of three years.

Sharma said the police had rushed through the investigation against the five men even when they were not ready with the key detail of the age of the sixth member of the group, who lured the woman and a male friend into the bus and, according to leaked accounts, was the most brutal in the attack.

"When you have not even established the age of this person, how can you go to court bringing the charges against the others, and say your investigations are complete," Sharma said.

"We all know how police investigations are carried out in India."

Legal reprisentation

For days after their arrest, soon after the assault on the woman and a male companion, none of the men had a lawyer. Most members of the judiciary refused to represent them because of the outrage over the attack.

Police conducted extensive interrogations of the men in the absence of any lawyer and they say they have recorded confessions.

Legal experts had said a lack of representation for the suspects could give grounds for appeal if they were found guilty. Convictions in similar cases have often been overturned years later.

Sharma and another lawyer, V K Anand, offered to defend the five men when they appeared in a New Delhi court for the first time on Monday.

The case has shone a light on a widespread problem of violence against women but also the failure of the criminal justice system to bring the guilty to justice in a country where official statistics show a rape is reported every 20 minutes.

Fast-track trial

The trial will be conducted in a special fast-track process, set up after the attack, but some legal experts have warned that previous attempts to fast-track justice in India had, in some cases, led to imperfect convictions that were later challenged.

On Wednesday, the court where pre-trial hearings are taking place rejected an appeal against a court decision to try the men in camera. Namita Aggarwal, the presiding magistrate, said on Monday that the trial would be held behind closed doors because of the sensitivity of the case.

One of the suspects, Akshay Thakur, was due to appear in court on Wednesday when police are likely to seek his remand in custody. Police say they could bring a supplementary charge-sheet if the sixth member of the group is found to be an adult.

The woman lived for two weeks after the attack but died on 29 December in a Singapore hospital where she had been taken for treatment.

She was identified by a British newspaper on the weekend but Reuters has opted not to name her.

Indian law generally prohibits the identification of victims of sex crimes to protect their privacy in a country where the social stigma associated with rape can be devastating.

  • Eterni80 - 2013-01-09 13:44

    when the DNA evidence is presented I hope the guilty burn in lakes of fire for all eternity..

  • gerald.umraw - 2013-01-09 14:07

    i am at a loss for words!

  • gerald.umraw - 2013-01-09 14:15

    if a person under the age of 18 can commit and partake in such an atrocious crime then he is fit to stand trial as an adult and sent to a prison where adult criminals are housed. Here is an overtly funny tale about the people in India, they can worship a cow and not kill it as they claim it gives life generating milk but they will rape and kill a young women who in future years would have actually born a child and been a mother probably to a future president or peace maker. Seriously how can you be so vile in your actions and still stand up and plead innocence? Disgusting!

  • - 2013-01-09 14:26

    Anyone who represents rapists and murderers are as bad as the rapists and murderes themselves. The poor woman is dead, suffered trauma none of us will (hopefully) ever know, and they have audacity to plead NOT GUILTY??! Scum, scum, scum!

  • donald.perumal - 2013-01-09 14:35

    To All Legal Experts It is so assuring to ensure that a lawyer is present when the suspects are questioned because the rapists ensured that lawyers were present when they abducted the girl and raped her! I must say most of you lot should be tried as accomplices to rape and murder because you basically tell the suspects what to say and you manipulate the intention of the laws to justify your exorbitant fees.

  • thomvj - 2013-01-09 14:46

    This are times like this where one wishes that rapists and murderers should be hanged instead of being given a jail sentence.Put the bastards infront of the firing squad and put holes all over their bodies.

      unbann.fidel - 2013-01-09 15:05

      Due process is what separates man from savages! Nietzsche once warned that "he who fights monsters must look to it that he himself does not become a monster, and when you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you".

      delish7564 - 2013-01-09 15:26

      @unbann. Good in theory, however, when you have such horrific crimes being comitted around the world, it becomes much harder not to wish the same inflicted on those that commit these atrocities. With the best will in the world, I try not to feel hatred for these people but it is beyond my comprehension how they can live with themselves after carrying out these crimes or even why they would contemplate doing it in the first place. Where is the humanity that is supposed to separate us from other animals, in this case and others like it, there is none and these monsters do not deserve to be called "human" :(

      Wikus Erasmus - 2013-01-09 15:35

      Don't think that worked for Nietzsche... he died an insane man...

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