Delhi gang rape suspects charged in India court

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Media caption,
The BBC's Shilpa Kannan: "Some advocates have... volunteered to defend them"

Five men in Delhi have been formally charged with the abduction, gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman.

The magistrate ordered the preliminary hearing to be held behind closed doors after chaotic scenes as lawyers denounced one of their colleagues who had offered to defend the accused.

The next hearing will take place on 10 January. The trial is expected to be referred to a new fast-track court.

The case has shocked India and prompted a debate about the treatment of women.

The hearing comes as four policemen have been suspended over the handling of another suspected rape and murder case near Delhi over the weekend.

The father of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found on Saturday has told the BBC she was gang-raped.

He said police initially failed to react when he reported her disappearance, suggesting instead that she had gone off with someone.

The case has triggered protests in the Delhi suburb of Noida, where the woman was employed in a factory.

Two men have been arrested and a third suspect is reported to have fled.


The five men were taken to the court in the Saket district of Delhi on Monday, where they were given the full list of charges against them, including abduction, rape and murder.

The hearing was initially supposed to take place in open court, but there were chaotic scenes as lawyers argued with each other over representation for the accused.

Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal adjourned the hearing, moving it behind closed doors.

It was not the most encouraging beginning to what the government has promised will be a fast-track legal process for this and other rape crimes, says the BBC's Andrew North, who has been outside the court in Saket.

The Saket district lawyers' association has refused to defend the accused because of the outcry the crime has provoked.

A van carrying the five suspects has now left the court, our correspondent says.

A sixth suspect, who is thought to be 17, will be tried separately in a youth court if it is confirmed he is a minor.

If convicted, the suspects could face the death penalty. Prosecutors have said they have extensive forensic evidence.

The five accused have been named as Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur.

Two of the suspects have offered to give evidence, possibly in return for a lighter sentence.

The victim and a male friend were attacked on a bus in south Delhi on 16 December. She died two weeks later in a hospital in Singapore.

Campaigners are calling for tougher rape laws and reforms to the police, who - critics say - often fail to file charges against accused attackers.

The victim's father has denied weekend reports in a British newspaper that he wanted his daughter's name published.

He told BBC Hindi last week that he would have no problem with her name being used on a new law against rape.