Skip to main content

Indian court to hear request to move gang-rape case outside New Delhi

By Sumnima Udas, CNN
updated 12:48 PM EST, Wed January 23, 2013
Indian protesters light candles around a mannequin representing the rape victim during a rally in New Delhi on December 31.
Indian protesters light candles around a mannequin representing the rape victim during a rally in New Delhi on December 31.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Panel proposes changes in sexual assault policies in India
  • Five men accused of raping and killing a woman in December face trial in New Delhi
  • Defense lawyers say shifting the case outside Delhi would ensure a fair hearing
  • The 23-year-old victim in that case, which transfixed India, died from her injuries

New Delhi (CNN) -- The lawyer for one of the men accused in the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman wants the trial moved out of New Delhi, where emotions have run high over the case.

The defense lawyer will argue before the Indian Supreme Court on Wednesday that transferring legal proceedings outside the Indian capital would ensure a free and fair hearing. His appearance, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, was pushed back a day.

Meanwhile, a panel appointed by India's home affairs minister after the incident delivered a 600-page report Wednesday criticizing authorities and even everyday Indians for their apathy and "low and skewed priority of dealing with complaints of sexual assault."

The group said social failings, not adequate criminal laws, are to blame for the lackadaisical treatment of sexual assault in India.

CNN rides along with Delhi police
Changing the male mindset in India
'Slumdog' star weighs in on gang rape
Father of India rape victim speaks out

"Failure of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment eroding the rule of law, and not the want of needed legislation," the panel said in its report.

However, the group did make several policy recommendations, including creating a new offense of gang rape punishable by at least 20 years in prison, making it a crime for police to fail to investigate sexual assault complaints and making it illegal to consider character or previous sexual experience of the victim at a criminal trial.

Kirti Singh of the National Commission for Women called the report a "landmark document."

The case that sparked the panel's review -- the December 16 gang rape of a woman in New Delhi -- has gripped India, prompting protests in the capital and other cites over the treatment of women and criticism of the way sexual assault cases are dealt with.

Opinion: India's rape problem needs a rewiring of society's attitude

The consequences of the case are still unfolding in the Indian news media, with calls for tougher punishment of people convicted of rape.

The five adult suspects in the December 16 incident appeared at a closed-door hearing at a fast-track court in New Delhi on Monday. Details about what was said in court cannot be reported under a judge's ruling imposing restrictions on coverage of the case.

Police say the suspects attacked the woman and her male companion on a bus, robbed them and dumped them by the side of the road.

The woman, badly injured in the attack, died two weeks later, despite being flown to Singapore for treatment. Her companion survived.

The five men are charged with murder, rape and kidnapping and could face the death penalty if convicted. A sixth suspect, who is believed to be too young to be tried as an adult, is facing proceedings in a juvenile court.

Indian rape debate: Why death penalty is no solution

The case is being heard in a "fast-track" court, which India introduced to try to expedite cases in a justice system bogged down by red tape. It means that sessions of the trial, once it begins, should take place nearly every working day until a verdict is reached.

The hearing Monday was a procedural step at which the charge sheet detailing prosecutors' accusations against the suspects was submitted. The trial will begin once the prosecution's arguments are made in court.

Rape case 'an awakening' for India, victim's father says

The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, according to defense lawyers.

The magistrates' court that initially heard the case imposed restrictions on what the news media can report about events in court.

That practice is common in rape cases in India to protect the victim's identity, and the magistrate said it was also necessary out of concern for the suspects' safety amid intense media coverage and widespread anger.

India rape victim's family wants hospital in her village

Authorities have not released the name of the dead woman, but Indian protesters have been calling her Damini, which means "lightning" in Hindi.

"Damini" is also a 1993 Bollywood film whose lead female character fights for a housemaid, a victim of sexual assault.

Companion of India rape victim: I begged attackers to stop

The events have also focused the attention of the Indian news media on attacks against women around the huge country. Newspapers and television stations have been reporting other shocking rape allegations on an almost daily basis.

In one of the most recent examples, police in the eastern state of Odisha arrested six men after they were accused of gang-raping a 25-year-old woman Sunday as she was on her way home from visiting her brother at a hospital.

The six men, including two who worked as custodians at the hospital, are alleged to have taken the woman to an isolated area by a river and sexually assaulted her, said B.K. Aich, a police superintendent in the district of Mayurbhanj.

Police are waiting for medical reports on the suspects to determine whether to take the case to court, Aich said.

The number of reported rapes in India -- a country where a cultural stigma keeps many victims from reporting the crime -- has increased from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011, according to official figures.

Most women in India have stories of sexual harassment and abuse on public transportation or on the streets, the Indian Council on Global Relations says.

CNN's Michael Pearson and Aliza Kassim in Atlanta and journalist Neiha Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Violence against women in India
updated 9:22 PM EST, Sun December 15, 2013
The colorful, busy streets of New Delhi are a mixture of old and new. Some people have modern attitudes, while others remain rooted in ancient values.
updated 9:23 PM EST, Sun December 15, 2013
When CNN's Sumnima Udas tells people outside India that she lives in New Delhi, she is almost always asked: "Do you feel safe there?" or worse, "what's with the rape culture in India?"
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Sat September 14, 2013
An Indian court sentenced four men to death for the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, an attack that appalled the South Asian nation.
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed September 11, 2013
The New Delhi rape case left the whole world wondering why India is treating its women so badly.
updated 6:10 AM EDT, Tue September 10, 2013
An Indian court finds four men guilty of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012.
updated 4:28 AM EDT, Wed August 28, 2013
I wasn't raped, but my attackers sexually assaulted and then tried to kill me.
updated 7:21 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
They're called the Red Brigade, a group of teenagers who are facing sex pests head on, vigilante-style.
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Fri August 23, 2013
A U.S. student's experience of sexual harassment in India triggers more anguish and sympathy from women in India.
updated 2:11 PM EDT, Fri August 23, 2013
American student Michaela Cross says during a three-month trip to India she experienced relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse.
updated 6:29 AM EDT, Thu August 15, 2013
Months after the brutal rape of an Indian woman on a bus, have measures to address violence against women worked?
updated 4:47 PM EST, Thu March 7, 2013
New Delhi is known as the crime capital of India. CNN's Sumnima Udas talks to women there about what daily life is like.
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
There's one clear observation from the outcry to India's rape crisis: some of the voices belong to India's men.
updated 2:06 PM EST, Wed January 16, 2013
'Top Chef' Host Padma Lakshmi weighs in on the New Delhi gang rape case and shares her experience living in India.
updated 1:41 PM EST, Thu January 3, 2013
The director of Amnesty International, India, says that execution "would just perpetuate the cycle of violence."
updated 6:55 PM EST, Wed January 16, 2013
The Delhi police bore the brunt of criticism for a December gang rape, but now they say they're changing their ways.
updated 11:34 AM EST, Fri January 4, 2013
The fatal gang rape of a young woman sparked weeks of angry protests and heated debates about sexual violence in Indian society.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Thu January 3, 2013
The New Delhi woman who was gang-raped died with her honor intact; her rapists will live in ignominy, actress Leeza Mangaldas writes.
ADVERTISEMENT