Demonstrators hold placards during a protest in New Delhi.

New Delhi – The Indian government on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the rape and assault of a woman on a New Delhi bus that has sparked widespread protests.

The panel – to be headed by Usha Mehra, a retired judge of the Delhi High Court – would identify lapses on the part of the police and other agencies and fix responsibility for any negligence that might have led to the incident, the government said.

The 23-year-old paramedical student was gang-raped and beaten along with her male companion on a moving bus December 16.

Doctors at the Safdarjang Hospital, where she was being treated, said her condition was critical despite minor improvement.

Six people, including the driver of the bus, have been arrested in connection with the rape and their trial was scheduled to begin January 3.

The attack led to violent protests in the city over the weekend and clashes between protesters and the police in which more than 130 people were injured and one policeman died.

The investigative panel would also suggest measures to improve safety and security of women in the capital and its suburbs, federal Finance Minister P Chidambaram said.

The Indian capital has a poor reputation on the safety of women. At least 661 rapes have been reported in New Delhi since January. – Sapa-dpa