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New Delhi - Four of the five men charged with the rape and murder of a woman on a bus in Delhi last month have been allocated defence counsel, lawyers said Thursday.
Manohar Lal Sharma and VK Anand said they would each represent one of the defendants, speaking to reporters after a hearing at the Delhi court. Another lawyer, AP Singh said he would act as counsel for two others.
The fifth man has not yet decided on his lawyer, they said, after a hearing for the suspects behind closed doors.
Judge Namrita Aggarwal earlier this week shut the hearing to the public after chaos erupted in the courtroom.
Members of the local lawyer association were involved in a quarrel in the court Monday after Sharma and Anand offered to defend the five suspects despite a vow by the association that its members would represent the men.
The court scheduled the next hearing for January 14, Singh told reporters.
“The scrutiny of documents including the charge sheet is underway in court. Some documents in the charge sheet are not legible and time has been given by court so we are provided the complete documents,” Singh said.
The 23-year-old victim died December 29 in Singapore where she had been taken for treatment following the December 16 assault in the Indian capital.
The five adult suspects are charged with abduction, gang-rape and murder. A sixth suspect is to be tried by a juvenile court once his claim to be 17 years old is verified.
Judge Aggarwal is expected to transfer the case to a special fast track court by next week, which will hold the trial. The family of the victim has demanded capital punishment for the accused. Prosecutors say DNA evidence has established their involvement.
The crime sparked unprecedented protests and put pressure on the government to improve public safety in India, where rape and violence against women are common.
A lawmaker from the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was criticized for controversial comments on rape.
“If rape is done to grown-ups, it is understandable. But whoever does such a heinous crime to an infant, should be given the harshest punishment of death by hanging,” Janata's Ramesh Bais told reporters.
Senior minister Jairam Ramesh responded by saying: “I think its very unfortunate that patriarchal and obscurantist mindsets are now coming into prominence. What people used to privately believe is being publicly expressed.
“People who made these comments have no place in civilized society...Anti-women politicians should go home,” he told NDTV. - Sapa-dpa