Five Delhi gang-rape suspects charged amid further protests in India
1,000-page document submitted by police to bring five men to trial for the brutal attack
Agence France-Presse in New Delhi
Indian police formally charged five men with murder, kidnapping and rape yesterday after the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi that appalled the nation.
Police filed the charges and listed their evidence in a reportedly 1,000-page document submitted to a district court, starting the process of bringing the men to trial.
The five suspects aged between 35 and 19, who would face the death penalty if convicted, were not present when the media were allowed in to listen to part of the proceedings.
The victim, a medical student from north India, was repeatedly raped and violated with an iron bar on a moving bus on December 16 as she returned from a cinema where she had watched a film with her boyfriend.
Protesters have massed in Indian cities daily since the assault to demand the government and police take sex crimes more seriously, with tougher penalties for offenders, including chemical castration.
A statement from the Delhi victim, who died at the weekend from her injuries, and an account from her boyfriend, who was badly beaten during the attack, are expected to form crucial parts of the evidence against the men.
A sixth suspect who is believed to be a minor aged 17 was not charged. Detectives are awaiting the results of a bone test to verify his age and determine whether he can be tried in an adult court.
The next hearing has been set for tomorrow. The trial has been fast-tracked to avoid the delays typical of India's dysfunctional justice system.
Altamas Kabir, the country's chief justice, has cautioned against letting public anger overwhelm the due process of the law.
"Let us not get carried away. A swift trial should not be at the cost of a fair trial," Kabir was quoted as saying in the local media.
Lawyers at the district court in New Delhi have decided they will not defend the suspects, meaning the government will have to appoint advocates for them.
Several hundred protesters including lawyers gathered outside the court yesterday.
"Why is there such a low conviction rate in India? Please judges, wake up!" said one banner. Just 26 per cent of the 24,206 cases of rape registered in 2011 in India resulted in a conviction, according to national data.