Chaos in court as Indian gang rape trial gets underway
Judge orders closed hearing after arguments erupt over whether the accused deserve legal defence
THE HEARING into the Delhi gang rape trial was adjourned earlier today after chaotic scenes in which lawyers argued over whether the defendants should enjoy legal representation. Five adult men are accused of the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey, who died from injuries sustained in the brutal attack on a Delhi bus before Christmas. A sixth defendant is understood to be a minor.
Chaos in court. Armed guards were outside the courtroom in the Saket district of Delhi when chaotic scenes broke out. The Saket district lawyers' association has refused to defend the accused because of the outcry the crime has provoked. Other lawyers who volunteered to represent the five men were shouted down by their colleagues, the BBC reports. Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal ordered a closed hearing with journalists banned. "The court has become jam-packed," said Aggarwal. "It has become impossible for this court to conduct proceedings in this case."
Fast-track hearing. When the accused return to court, their case will be fast-tracked. The public outcry at Jyoti’s rape and murder led to demands for a faster than normal resolution. Legal cases are notoriously slow to come to court in India. The country set up 1,700 fast-track courts in 2004 but stopped funding them in 2012 because of the high cost.
Naming the victim. There is confusion over whether the victim’s father wanted his daughter’s name released over the weekend. Badri Singh Pandey, 53, apparently told the Sunday People he wanted his daughter’s name known worldwide to give "courage" to other women who had survived attacks. However, the Daily Telegraph reports the father as saying that while is happy for any new law to be named after her, he had not intended the name to be released at this stage.
Death sentence review. The five accused adults face the death penalty because they are charged with murder. If Jyoti had lived, however, they would face only jail sentences. An Indian government panel is considering suggestions to make the death penalty mandatory for rape or to introduce chemical castration for the guilty. It is due to make its recommendations by 23 January. Official data shows one rape is reported on average every 20 minutes in India.
Minor could escape justice. The sixth alleged member of the gang, reported to be a minor, could be free in a few months, even if he gets the maximum three-year sentence. The Times of India explains that a juvenile who has turned 18 can't be transferred to an adult jail. The court intends to hold an inquiry to ascertain his exact age.