Reporting on the biggest rape case in India
I was among the crowd of reporters outside the Saket Magistrate court. But those positioned at the main entrance, where all the media satellite trucks were set up, missed the police van that brought the five suspects to court.
Despite being flanked by “major security” as the police call it, for their safety, they arrived inconspicuously through a side entrance.
They were put in a prison cell in the court while the magistrate prepared to hand them charges.
Proceedings were interrupted when a couple of lawyers offered to defend them. It went against the district bar associations’ agreement. They wanted to reflect the grief and outrage over the attack, and decided amongst themselves that no one would step forward.
The magistrate walked out, then came back not long after, and ordered anyone not directly connected to the case to leave the courtroom.
We spoke to one of the supreme court lawyers who had offered to represent the men, he told us he was doing it so they get a fair trial.
Once proceedings resumed the five were told of the charges they will face which included murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery and conspiracy over the attack on a bus on December 16.
If found guilty they could get a death sentence. Two of defendants have offered to be state witnesses, meaning that they will testify against the others. Lawyers say, it could also mean that they get lighter sentences.
But the prosecution is confident they have a strong case.
They say they have DNA evidence linking the men to the crime. Police have also recovered the victim’s stolen items. Lawyers say they have dozens of witness statements.
Perhaps the most crucial from the victim herself who recorded her testimony from her hospital bed, and from her companion that night.
The gang are alleged to have taken it in turns to rape the young woman, as well as assault her with an iron bar, which they used to attack her companion too. The pair were stripped and thrown out of the moving vehicle.
A sixth suspect, accused of inflicting the worst and most heinous injuries, is still awaiting trial. The issue here is that his records show he only turns 18 in 4 months.
It has triggered debate on whether the age a juvenile can tried as an adult should be lowered.
Under current laws in India, a juvenile cannot be tried for murder, the suspect could be back on the streets in under 3 years.
The brutality of the attack and the circumstances of the victim have affected India like no other rape case has. There have been almost daily protests, some violent, calling for the government to put safety for women on it’s agenda.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy student, was the eldest daughter of 3 children. She was expecting an internship at a hospital in Delhi in January.
She was their hope for a better life. She had told her father, a luggage loader at the airport, that she would help educate her siblings.
Without knowing it, the family had already set an example to the nation, by seeing their daughter not a burden BUT as an important member of the family. They educated her instead of spending the money on dowry, as it is vastly done in this country.
And now the case is setting a precedent. It is giving importance to a crime that was largely ignored.
Rape cases can take up to 10 years and only one in four end in a conviction. Lawyers say this case could be wrapped up in weeks, and given the evidence, conviction should be 100 percent.