NEW DELHI — Five men accused of raping a university student for hours on a bus as it drove through India’s capital, New Delhi, were charged with murder, rape and other crimes that could bring them the death penalty.
The attack on the 23-year-old woman, who died of severe internal injuries in Singapore over the weekend, provoked a fierce debate across India about the routine mistreatment of females and triggered daily protests demanding action.
There have been signs of change since the attack. Rapes, often ignored, have become front-page news, politicians have called for tougher laws, including the death penalty and chemical castration for rapists, and the government is examining changes in the criminal-justice system’s handling of sexual assaults. Activists say the tragedy could mark a turning point for women’s rights.
In a nation where court cases often linger for years, the government set up a special fast-track court Wednesday to deal with crimes against woman, and that is where the charges against the five men were filed Thursday evening. The government said it planned to open four more such courts in the city.
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Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan filed a case of rape, tampering with evidence, kidnapping, murder and other charges against the men. A hearing was set for Saturday.
The men charged were Ram Singh, the bus driver; his brother Mukesh Singh, who cleans buses for the same company; Pavan Gupta, a fruit vendor; Akshay Singh, a bus washer; and Vinay Sharma, a fitness trainer. They did not appear in court. Authorities have said they would push for the death penalty for the men.
The victim’s father said he supported the death penalty.
A sixth suspect, listed as a 17-year-old, was expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.
The Bar Association said its lawyers would not defend the suspects, but the court was expected to appoint attorneys to defend them.
The woman was attacked Dec. 16 after boarding the bus with a male companion after watching a movie at an upscale mall. The vehicle was a charter bus that illegally picked up the two passengers, authorities said.
The pair were attacked for hours as the bus drove through the city. They were dumped naked on the side of the road.