An India juvenile court on Saturday found the only minor accused in the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic student in Delhi guilty of committing those crimes. He was sentenced to three years in a correctional home.
The verdict, which was deferred several times since he was indicted last year, left the victim’s mother in tears while crowds outside the court called for the teenager to be hanged, the BBC reported. The minor, 17 years old at the time of the crime, had allegedly lured the girl and her companion to board a private bus where the crimes took place and was named in the police documents as the “most brutal” of the six who were accused.
The men allegedly raped and inserted a car jack into the victim’s body, which damaged her internal organs and led to her ultimate death in a Singapore hospital last December. The sentenced teen, who was six months short of being 18 at the time, was charged with rape, murder, destruction of evidence and other crimes. He and the surviving four men (a fifth, Ram Singh, died in an apparent suicide in prison in March), denied the charges against them. As adults, the remaining accused face a possible death penalty if found guilty.
The teen’s verdict is the first in the December 16 gang rape, and was delivered by India’s Juvenile Justice Board — which hears trials of delinquent minors. The board was authorized by India’s top court on August 22 to judge the matter after a prolonged debate in the country over whether the age for juvenile crimes should be lowered from 18 years to 16 years to ensure that the minor would not escape with a lenient sentence.
On July 17, India’s top court turned down such a petition and refused to allow any changes to existing juvenile law. ”Condemning the juvenile to harsh sentencing on par with adults is not a solution,” India’s Women and Child Development minister Krishna Tirath told The Times of India in February this year. The juvenile age in India was raised to 18 years from 16 years in 2000 in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was signed in 1992.
The outrage over the gang rape of the 23-year-old did, however, force the government to pass a new bill allowing for harsher punishments, including the death penalty, for rapists.
The trial of the other four adults is being carried out by a special fast-track court, which is expected to deliver its verdict next month.