Indian teenager sentenced to three years in gang rape case that sparked public outrage
NEW DELHI - Reuters
Plainclothes policemen escort an Indian teenager (head covered with towel) after he was sentenced at a juvenile court in New Delhi Aug. 31. REUTERS photoAn Indian teenager was sentenced to three years in juvenile detention on Aug. 31 for the December gang rape of a trainee physiotherapist, the first verdict in a case that sparked debate over whether India is too soft on young offenders.
Police say the 18-year-old and five adult men lured the 23-year-old woman and her male friend onto a New Delhi bus where they repeatedly raped her and beat them both with a metal bar before dumping them on to a road.
The woman, nicknamed "Damini" until her identity was disclosed by her father, died in a Singapore hospital two weeks after the Dec. 16 attack. The case turned a global spotlight on the treatment of women in India, where police say a rape is reported every 20 minutes.
"The juvenile has been found guilty under rape and murder charges, and accordingly sentenced to three years of jail," Rajesh Tiwari, a lawyer for the juvenile, told reporters.
The lawyer said the juvenile would be sent to a reform home to serve the term, taking into account the months he has already spent in detention since his arrest.
Four of the teenager's co-accused are still on trial and face the death penalty if convicted. Closing arguments began on Aug. 22 and verdicts are expected within the next fortnight. A fifth accused, the alleged ring-leader, killed himself in his jail cell in March.
The teenager, who may not be named, was tried as a juvenile as he was 17 at the time of the attack. The maximum penalty that could be imposed by the Juvenile Justice Board was three years.
In January, authorities ruled he was 17, citing school records, which shocked the victim's family and others clamouring for him to face the death penalty.
"You may as well set the juvenile free, if the sentence is only three years for heinous offences like rape and murder," said the victim's mother who was in tears after the verdict.
The mother also said she would appeal against the verdict in a higher court.
"I am not happy with this judgment. At least in this case, the juvenile should have been sentenced to life," the victim's brother told Reuters.
In response to the public outcry after the rape, the government fast-tracked tougher laws against sex crimes, but it resisted calls to change the juvenile law and return the adult age to 16 from 18.