Delhi gang rape: Verdict deferred in juvenile case

An artists works on a banner calling for the death sentence for rapists in Delhi, 16 January 2012
Image caption The gang rape of the 23-year-old woman shocked India

An Indian juvenile court has deferred its verdict in the case of an 18-year-old accused of taking part in the fatal gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus.

He is charged with rape, murder, destroying evidence, and other crimes including kidnapping carried out while aged 17. He faces up to three years in a reform facility if convicted.

The verdict is now expected on 25 July.

He has denied the charges - as have four adults on trial at a specially convened fast-track court.

They face the death penalty.

A sixth suspect was found dead in jail. Prison officials have said they believe he hanged himself but defence lawyers and his family allege he was murdered.

The attack sparked mass protests throughout India and a national debate about the treatment of women.

Beaten and raped

If found guilty, the 18-year-old can be sent to a reform facility for up to three years. This would include the time he has spent while waiting for the verdict.

"The idea behind the provision is that three years is sufficient time to reform a child", Anant Kumar Asthana, a Delhi-based lawyer told the AFP news agency.

However, many, including the family of the victim, had demanded that the teenager - who was six months short of becoming an adult at the time of the crime - should be treated as an adult and face the death penalty for his alleged crime.

A spokesperson for the ruling Congress party, Renuka Chowhary, said in January that "given the nature of the crime, the most gruesome and heinous way a crime is committed, it has to be revisited to see how we define the word juvenile".

Under Indian laws the juvenile accused can not be named for legal reasons.

Having left his village at the age of 11, he lived his formative years alone, doing menial jobs in Delhi.

In March, India passed a new bill containing harsher punishments, including the death penalty, for rapists.

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.

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