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Indian court to hear charges against gang-rape suspects

Rape victim's father calls for death penalty

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Story highlights

  • The accused men are expected to be formally charged in a New Delhi court Thursday
  • The victim's father says he supports naming a tougher anti-rape law after her
  • Bar association leaders in the district where it happened urge lawyers not to take the case

With top lawyers refusing to represent them, the men accused of raping and killing a 23-year-old woman are expected to be formally charged Thursday at a New Delhi court.

The brutal attack on the woman, who died from her severe injuries last week, has appalled and enraged many Indians, prompting widespread debate over the way the country handles sexual assaults and the treatment of women in Indian society.

Numerous protests have taken place, new laws have been proposed and senior lawyers in the court district where the accused men are likely to be tried say they will not represent them.

Police will submit charges against at least five of the accused men before a new fast-track court in Saket, a southern district of New Delhi, CNN affiliate IBN reported. It was unclear if the men would appear in the closed court session Thursday.

A sixth male alleged to have participated in the attack is believed to be a minor and may appear before a juvenile court, but police were carrying out a bone marrow test to try to determine his exact age, IBN reported.

The victim, whose name has not been released, died Saturday in a Singapore hospital, where she received treatment after being airlifted from New Delhi.

The men are accused of assaulting the woman and her male companion on a bus in the Indian capital on December 16, robbing them of their belongings before dumping them at the side of a road, police said.

The male companion was eventually discharged from a local hospital.

Authorities plan to seek the death penalty for the accused, IBN reported, with many calls for the men to be hanged, including from the victim's family.

If the sixth accused is confirmed to be a minor, he could be sent to a children's home for a maximum of three years, according to IBN.

The 11 lawyers who make up the executive board of the Saket Bar Association on Wednesday vowed not to represent any of the accused assailants because of the nature of the crime.

In addition, the bar association has appealed to its 7,000 members to also refrain from representing the accused, said the association's president, Rajpal Kasana.

"We are not taking this case on the grounds of humanity," he said.

The boycott by the bar association does not mean the accused will not have lawyers. Attorneys from other districts or ones appointed by the court will likely fill that role.

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The call for local lawyers to avoid defending the accused is unprecedented, but justified because "everyone is emotionally attached to this case," Kasana said.

Lawmakers are weighing a proposal to toughen the country's anti-rape law. Some have suggested a new law should be named after the woman, while others have said it's illegal to reveal her identity.

The victim's father told IBN that he supported naming a new law after his daughter.

"All I ask is that the law is the toughest it can be," he said. "The death penalty is compulsory for a crime so grave the assailants must be hanged. The courts must give these men the death penalty."

Misogyny in India: We are all guilty

India's Supreme Court on Thursday will hear a petition asking it to suspend all lawmakers who face charges for crimes against women. The petition was filed in the aftermath of the brutal gang-rape, which sent thousands of outraged protesters to the streets for days.

"This unfortunate episode has galvanized the nation," said Jagdeep S. Chhokar, an official with the Association for Democratic Reforms, which tracks political candidate's criminal records.

Chhokar said six Indian state lawmakers are facing rape charges in unrelated cases, and two people in the federal parliament are also facing charges of crimes against women that fall short of charges of rape.

The group says that in the past five years, political parties across India have nominated 260 candidates facing charges of crimes against women such as assault and outraging the modesty of a woman.