Charges were framed by a special fast-track court on Saturday against five of the six accused allegedly involved in the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on 16 December 2012. The sixth accused is a minor according to his school certificate and faces a separate trial, the maximum punishment in which is three years in a reformatory. The court refused the police's request to have a bone test conducted on the accused to ascertain his exact age.
The five accused, Ram Singh, the driver of the chartered bus in which the rape took place, his brother Mukesh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Singh have been charged under 13 sections of the Indian Penal Code. The alleged offences include gang rape, murder, sodomy and destruction of evidence. The charge sheet reportedly runs into thousands of pages. All the accused have pleaded not guilty. The trial will start from next Tuesday, 5 February.
Meanwhile, women's groups have decided to launch a campaign against the Union government's move to bring an ordinance on criminal law amendments to deal with sexual crime.
The decision was taken at a meeting of several women's organisations held in the capital on Saturday. As part of the campaign, these groups will hold a protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar on Monday afternoon. This will be followed by protests all over the country and also during the Parliament's coming budget session.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Kavita Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), said that the ordinance has many flaws and does not incorporate major recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, which was set up after the gang rape incident.
"This is a cruel joke on the Verma Committee and also the ongoing movement against sexual violence. The government is just introducing existing provisions with some changes. These laws are already there. If that was the case, what was need to appoint the committee?" she wondered.
The meeting was also attended by the representatives of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) and Saheli. According to Krishnan, the government has retained the provision of rape as a gender neutral crime, which is impractical and dangerous. If this happens, men visiting sex workers may accuse them of rape.
She also criticised the ordinance, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet, for not taking into consideration marital rape and rape of women by their separated husbands. "Similarly, the government is going ahead with the earlier provision of required sanction to prosecute a government officer, whereas the Justice Verma committee report has suggested to get rid of this clause in case of sexual violence," she added.