NEW: Magistrate orders that the hearing take place behind closed doors
"You will not defend those barbarians!" one lawyer shouts at another in court
Five suspects facing charges of murder, rape and kidnapping arrive in court
The attack on a woman and her male companion took place on December 16
Amid heated confrontations between lawyers, a New Delhi court on Monday ordered the appearance of five men accused in the shocking rape and killing of an Indian woman last month to take place behind closed doors.
The fatal attack of the 23-year-old woman last month in New Delhi prompted protests over the country’s treatment of women and handling of sexual attacks. It also stirred worldwide outrage.
The suspects will appear in a so-called “fast-track” court in a southern New Delhi district, a Metropolitan Magistrates’ Court said, according to CNN’s sister network, CNN-IBN.
But tempers flared inside the packed courtroom before the suspects had even appeared, with some lawyers loudly criticizing the offer by a couple of their colleagues to represent the suspects.
“You will not defend those barbarians!” shouted one young lawyer, pointing his finger at Manohar Lal Sharma, one of those willing to represent the accused men. The local bar association last week vowed not to represent any of the suspects because of the nature of the crime they are accused of committing.
The magistrate, Namrita Aggarwal, asked everyone not connected with the case to leave the courtroom so she could call the suspects in. When none of them budged, she walked out of the room.
She returned a while later and ordered that the hearing take place behind closed doors. She also forbade the news media from publishing proceedings related to the case without the court’s permission, citing concerns about the suspects’ safety.
The magistrates’ court was expected to transfer the case to a so-called “fast-track” court, several of which have been set up to expedite cases in a justice system bogged down by red tape.
Five men were charged Thursday in a New Delhi court with murder, rape and kidnapping.
Authorities were waiting for the outcome of a bone marrow test before deciding whether a sixth suspect in the attack will be charged as a juvenile or an adult.
The female victim of the attack, whose name has not been released, died late last month in a Singapore hospital, where she received treatment after being airlifted from New Delhi.
The trial will begin as soon as all of the evidence is gathered, said Suman Nalwa, deputy police commissioner of a unit for women and children.
The 28-year-old male victim, who survived with a broken leg, said in an interview last week with the news agency Agence France-Presse that he and his friend had boarded the private bus to return home after seeing a movie.
But the driver of the bus made lewd remarks and five other men on board taunted the couple and locked the doors, the man said.
He said that he was beaten with a stick while the men raped his friend and hit her in the worst possible ways in the most private parts of her body. The driver used an iron bar in the attack, he told the news agency.
In a separate interview with the news agency Reuters, the man said their abductors drove the couple throughout the city for about two hours before dropping them below an overpass; he was unable to stand and had no clothes.
He said that they received no help “for nearly 20 or 25 minutes,” and that when three police vehicles finally did show up, the officers argued among themselves about which police precinct had jurisdiction.
The case appears to have prompted changes in New Delhi law enforcement.
India’s interior minister has ordered the city’s police stations to increase the number of women officers to facilitate the handling of complaints from women.
Interior Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said Friday that each police station in Delhi should have 10 women constables and two women subinspectors.
The interior minister said he was also working with security officials to strengthen laws regarding rape and assault.
The brother of the woman killed in the attack said Sunday that their family would like to see a new hospital named after her to keep her memory alive.
He told CNN by phone from eastern India that the family’s home village, located in a underdeveloped region, still doesn’t have a well-equipped health care center.
“It will be really good if our village gets a hospital in her name. That will keep her memory alive and serve a cause,” said the 20-year-old, who asked not to be named.
The rape victim was the eldest of three siblings, with two younger brothers. A physiotherapy student, she was expecting an internship at a hospital in the Indian capital in January.
“After her internship, she would have got a job. And that would have been a great help to our family,” said the brother, himself a student.
The family is still struggling with the traumatic loss, he said, and feels that recent protests in several Indian cities in response to the attack are justified.
Bhagat denied that the directive was issued solely because of the rape, but said it is aimed at helping women.