Suspects in India rape case appear in court

Suspects in India rape case appear in court

Suspects in India rape case appear in court

Updated 8 January 2013, 1:32 AEST

Five of the suspects in the gang rape and murder of a woman in India's capital New Delhi last month have appeared in court for the first time.

The five men, along with a teenager, are accused of raping the 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in New Delhi.

There was a massive media presence at the Saket court complex in South Delhi as the five men made their first appearance, arriving on Monday morning (local time) amid heavy security.

They are facing charges of kidnap, gang rape and murder over the attack.

The defendants have been named as Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vijay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta.

The sixth suspect, a 17-year-old, is likely to be tried in a children's court.

"A charge sheet has been provided to the accused and the next hearing will be on January 10," magistrate Namrita Aggarwal told reporters after the brief hearing.

The men are being tried in a special fast-track court, with prosecutors hoping to have the trial finished within a couple of months.

It normally takes months for the prosecution to assemble such a case, but the legal proceedings are getting under way barely a week after the 23-year-old died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital.

The government, sensitive to criticism that a sluggish justice system often compounds the agony of victims, has pledged to fast-track the case against the defendants who are aged between 17 and 35. They all live in Delhi.

Prosecutors have indicated they will seek the death penalty.

Two of the accused, Sharma and Gupta, have moved an application requesting they be made "approvers" - or informers - against the other accused, according to a public prosecutor in the case, Rajiv Mohan.

'Maximum security'

Rowdy protests by some lawyers, who were denouncing other advocates who have stepped forward to defend the accused, delayed the start of proceedings in the packed court room and police were called in to restore order.

Police have pledged "maximum security" during the hearing at the court amid fears for the defendants' safety.

A man was arrested last week as he allegedly tried to plant a crude bomb near the home of one of the men.

Presiding magistrate Ms Aggarwal ordered that the suspects' first appearance in court take place behind closed doors.

"The court has become jam-packed," Ms Aggarwal told the court amid noisy protests from lawyers and a media scrum. "It has become impossible for this court to conduct proceedings in this case."

The stuffy room with space for no more than 30 chairs was struggling to contain about 150 people by mid-afternoon, including dozens of lawyers with no connection to the case, as well as local and international journalists.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had spent the evening at a cinema with her boyfriend on the night of the attack. After failing to flag down an autorickshaw, they were lured onto a school bus they thought would take them home.

Instead, a gang is alleged to have taken it in turns to rape the young woman. She and her companion, who was also assaulted, were then thrown out of the bus.

Outlining their case before the same court on Saturday, prosecutors said there was DNA evidence to tie the defendants to the crime scene.

Rape cases are usually held behind closed doors in India and it will be up to the court to decide what the media will be allowed to report.

The police have issued an advisory saying "it shall not be lawful for any person to print or publish any matter in relation to such proceedings" unless they receive permission from the court.

ABC/wires