Attempt-to-murder charge may be slapped on rapists

Attempt-to-murder charge may be slapped on rapists

Trial to go fast-track; gang-rape victim still in ICU

Attempt-to-murder charge may be slapped on rapists

In the face of widespread public outrage over the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in the national capital on Sunday night, Delhi police on Tuesday swung into action to nab all six alleged perpetrators of the crime and push for speedy trial.

As the victim’s condition remained serious at the intensive care unit of Safdarjung Hospital in the city, the issue came up in Parliament, with members cutting across party lines asking the government to take it up seriously. Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was forced to assure the agitated members in the Upper House to push Delhi police to take steps to ensure that the national capital becomes a safer place for women.

The condition of the victim, medical superintendent of the hospital said, was better than it was on Monday, after she underwent a surgery on Sunday. Her “conscious level” too was better, but she will be kept under “close observation” for the next two to three days.

Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar said the victim was hit on her abdomen before she was gang-raped. She had tried to protect her male friend, who was hit with an iron rod by the alleged rapists in the moving bus. The bus, a private school bus, was illegally used by the driver to ferry passengers to make some quick buck, he said. The vehicle too has been impounded, he said.

The main alleged culprit, driver Ram Singh, who was the first to be arrested, was produced before metropolitan magistrate Namrita Aggarwal on Tuesday. The court granted police custody for five days for custodial interrogation. The police informed the court that three other alleged culprits – Ram Singh’s brother Mukesh, Vinay Sharma, a gym instructor, and Pawal Gupta, a fruit seller – would be produced before the court on Wednesday. The police were still in the look out for two more alleged culprits.

With demands for quick and stringent action being made during the day in Parliament, and by various civil society groups, Kumar said the police would seek to fast-track the trial of the alleged perpetrators. The police was also proposing to file an attempt to murder case against the six persons, he added. The police would also approach the Union home ministry for changing criminal law to award harshest possible punishment to the culprits, he said.

The need to expedite trial was also emphasised by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit during the day. She requested the chief justice of the Delhi High Court to take urgent action to set up five special fast-track courts for trying sexual assault cases.

On his part, Shinde too promised to fast-track the trial and stressed that the government would not hesitate to take action against the police personnel if they fail to investigate the case in a proper manner. A special task force headed by Union Home Secretary R K Singh will be constituted to look into suggestions from Parliamentarians to improve policing in the city.

It was being pointed out that nothing much had changed since the last incident of rape in a moving vehicle in the national capital. In December 2010, a call centre employee was gang-raped in a moving car near Dhaula Kuan in west Delhi. At that time, the police and the government had made promises to make the city safer for women, but nothing much has changed on the ground. Delhi has been witnessing a rise in crime against women.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the city witnessed 568 rape cases in 2011. Though the bureau is yet to compile 2012 statistics, women activists claim the number of rape cases in Delhi had already crossed 500.