AN Indian magistrate has ruled the media will not be allowed to attend the trial of the five men accused of raping and killing a young student in the Indian capital.
Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal upheld the prosecutor’s request that the media be barred from attending the proceedings, according to police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.
Hundreds of journalists, lawyers and onlookers had jammed the courtroom in New Delhi where the five were to appear.
Today’s hearing was expected to result in the case being sent to a special “fast-track” court. Indian courts are notoriously slow, with some cases dragging on for decades.
The trial is expected to begin in the coming days. Indian rape trials are normally closed to the media.
Authorities have charged the men with murder, rape and other crimes which could bring them the death penalty. The crime sparked nationwide outrage, leading to massive protests.
A sixth suspect, who is 17 years old, is expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.
Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said last week that a DNA test confirmed that the blood of the victim matched bloodstains found on the clothes of all the accused.
Yesterday, two of the defendants offered to become “approvers”, or informers against the others, according to reporters present at the hearing.
The pair were presumably seeking lighter sentences.
The victim’s companion recounted in a television interview last week how the pair was attacked for two and a half hours on a New Delhi bus before being thrown on the side of the road, where passers-by ignored them and police debated jurisdiction issues before helping them.
The woman died weeks after the December 16 attack at a hospital in Singapore.
The attack has led to calls for tougher rape laws and reforms of a police culture which often blames rape victims and refuses to file charges against accused attackers.
The nation’s top law enforcement official said the country needs to crack down on crimes against women.