Joined: 12 December 2006
A court in India has ruled that one of the six people accused of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi last month is a minor.
The Juvenile Justice Board said it accepted the accused's date of birth as 4 June 1995, making him 17 years old. He will be tried in a juvenile court.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of three years in a reform facility.
Five other suspects have gone on trial at a specially convened fast-track court and face the death penalty.
The case has shocked India and sparked a debate about its treatment of women.
The victim, a physiotherapy student who cannot be named in India for legal reasons, and a male friend were attacked on a bus on 16 December.
Police said the assailants beat both of them, and then raped the woman. She suffered massive internal injuries and died nearly two weeks later.
On Monday, the Juvenile Justice Board accepted the elementary school records of the suspect as proof of his age, the AFP news agency quoted a lawyer who was present in the court as saying.
The Delhi police, who had demanded a bone ossification test as confirmation, said they would challenge the verdict in the High Court.
Experts say the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, may be released within six months if he is convicted, because adults cannot be detained at juvenile reform facilities.
The ruling shocked the victim's father.
"A sudden current ran through my body in disbelief. I can't believe this," the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.
"How can they declare him a minor? Do they not see what they did?"
Although the court based its ruling on the suspect's school records, its headmaster told BBC Hindi that he could not really be sure of his age.
"There is no concept of producing birth certificates in village schools at the time of admission. People just bring their children and tell us their approximate age.
"We admit a child based on what the parents tell us. We can't really be sure of his age, but as per the school admission records, he is 17 years and six months old. He could be older than this, but I'm sure he is not younger," he said.
Meanwhile, the trial of the other five suspects continued on Monday in a closed courtroom at the Saket court complex in Delhi.
Lawyers for two of the accused have said they will plead not guilty. It is not yet clear how the others will plead.
Prosecutors say they have extensive forensic evidence linking all six suspects to the crime. It is supported by the suspects' mobile-phone records and the testimony of the dying woman and her friend, they add.
However, defence lawyers say the forensic evidence is fabricated.
The brutal assault of the student has led to nationwide protests and campaigners have called for tougher rape laws and reforms to the police who have been accused of too often failing to file charges against attackers.
The government has promised to fast-track future rape cases. Legal proceedings in India sometimes involve years of delays.
A policeman keeps guard outside a court in New Delhi January 7, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
By Arup Roychoudhury and Annie Banerji
NEW DELHI | Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:08pm IST
(Reuters) - A teenager accused of taking part in the December 16 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi will be tried as a juvenile, facing a maximum of three years in prison if convicted, a special panel ruled on Monday.
The ruling shocked the victim's father, who watched the news flash across his television screen.
"A sudden current ran through my body in disbelief. I can't believe this," the father told Reuters. "How can they declare him a minor? Do they not see what they did?"
The teenager has not yet been formally charged because police were hoping he would be declared an adult so they could include him in the main trial of his five co-accused.
He does not have a lawyer and his account of what happened on December 16 is not known.
Lawyers for the five accused men said they would plead not guilty and one has accused police of torturing him, his lawyer said.
The panel's decision on the youth is likely to infuriate many people, including protesters, some police and political leaders, who have called for the age at which people can be tried as adults to be lowered to 16 from 18.
A government committee examining changes to sexual crime laws, however, last week ruled out such a move.
Police allege that the 17-year-old and five men gang-raped and severely beat the student on a moving bus in the capital before dumping her and a male friend in the road. The woman was so badly injured that she died of massive organ failure in a Singapore hospital two weeks later.
The case has sparked national debate about rampant crime against women, and President Pranab Mukherjee, made an unusual call in a television state-of-the nation address on Friday for the country to "reset its moral compass".
A juvenile board, comprising a magistrate and two child welfare activists, said it accepted school records showing the juvenile, who may not be identified, as having been born on June 4, 1995. It said a bone density test to determine his age was not necessary.
Police, who suspect that he is older than 17, said they could appeal the board's ruling, although there was no immediate plan to do so.
"This is wrong. We need the bone test to determine the accused real age, certificates can be forged," the victim's younger brother told Reuters by telephone.
The teenager attended Monday's hearing but journalists waiting outside the building did not catch a glimpse of him. He will now stand trial before the juvenile board and if convicted will be sent to a juvenile detention centre.
Across town, lawyers for his five fellow accused presented arguments for the first time on Monday in a pre-trial hearing that will determine what charges the five men will face when the case eventually goes to trial.
Outside the wood-panelled courtroom dozens of policemen armed with bamboo canes or "lathis" jostled with reporters waiting to get a glimpse of the five accused. The men, wearing grey woollen caps and scarves to hide their faces, were hand-held by policemen as they were led inside.
In India, all rape cases are held in closed court to protect the identity of the victim. This rule is being enforced in the New Delhi gang rape case even though the victim's family has already said they are not opposed to her being identified.
The judge hearing the case, Yogesh Khanna, has taken the additional steps of cautioning lawyers not to talk about the proceedings outside of court and warned the media not to repeat any information they glean from sources.
The prosecutor had complained that defence lawyers were violating an earlier court order by briefing reporters.
The scarcity of information about a case that shocked the world stands in stark contrast to the intense media coverage that preceded the start of the court proceedings.
There is still simmering public outrage over police handling of the case and the slow response by the government, which was caught off guard by street protests that turned violent.
Many still have questions about what really happened on the night of December 16, what drove the women's attackers to assault her so savagely, and how such a brutal crime could take place in an affluent and modern part of the capital.
The government panel set up after the gang-rape blamed police negligence for a climate of insecurity in New Delhi, known as India's "rape capital".
(Writing by Ross Colvin, additional reporting by Satarupa Bhattacharjya and Suchitra Mohanty; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Joined: 12 December 2006
The Indian Juvenile Justice Board ruled Monday that one suspect in the recent fatal gang rape of a young woman on a moving bus is officially a juvenile, which could result in a lenient sentence if he is found guilty of the crime.
The teenager, who school records show is 17 years old, could receive a maximum sentence of three years in a detention facility if found guilty. Five other men accused of the premeditated rape and killing of a 23-year old physiotherapy student on Dec. 16 could face life imprisonment or the death penalty if found guilty.
The December gang rape and the victim's subsequent death of injuries sustained during the rape prompted widespread protests in India over the lack of safety and justice for women, and calls for the rapists to be executed.
Some criminal and legal experts expected the juvenile to be forced to undergo a bone ossification test, which is sometimes used to determine age in India where birth records are not always accurate. But the juvenile board's ruling Monday makes that unlikely.
Separately, the judge in a fast-track court set up to try the five men accused in the Delhi gang rape on Monday rejected a plea by one suspect, Vinay Sharma, that he take a bone ossification test in order to prove his age, to prove he is a juvenile. Mr. Sharma's mother told India Ink earlier this month that he was born in March 1994, which would make him 18, or legally an adult.
Lawyers for the five suspects on Monday began their arguments on the framing of charges against the men. They are jointly facing 14 charges, including robbery, murder, kidnapping and gang rape.
V.K. Anand, the lawyer for two of five suspects, brothers Ram and Mukesh Singh, argued on Monday that a majority of the charges against his clients should be dropped. The fast-track court, in the Saket District Court Complex, meets again Tuesday at noon.
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