Court lifts gag order on India gang rape trial

AP News
Posted: Mar 22, 2013 3:56 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — A court ruled Friday that Indian media will now be allowed to cover the trial of four men accused in the gang rape and fatal beating of a woman on a New Delhi bus in December, a defense lawyer in the case said.

Journalists had been barred by a court order from entering the courtroom or reporting details of the trial, which is already under way in a special fast-track court in the capital.

But the Delhi High Court lifted the gag order Friday, allowing local media to cover one of the most high-profile trials in the country, according to defense lawyer V.K. Anand.

The ruling by Justice Rajiv Shakdher said one representative from national Indian daily newspapers and one from local wire services would be allowed into the courtroom and then will be expected to brief reporters outside the court, according to the Press Trust of India. The journalists will still be barred from naming the victim, her family and witnesses called in the case, the ruling said, according to PTI.

The decision to open the trial to reporters was likely to lead to a new wave of media coverage of the crime, which sparked protests across India demanding stronger protection for women.

Police say the 23-year-old student and a male friend were attacked when they boarded a private bus they thought was taking them home after seeing a movie at an upscale shopping mall on Dec. 16. Six attackers beat the man and raped the woman, inflicting massive internal injuries with a metal bar, police said. The victims were dumped on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

In the wake of the attack, a special fast-track court was set up in New Delhi to deal with sexual violence cases, beginning with the gang rape trial. Five men were originally on trial, but one was found dead in his jail cell earlier this month in an incident authorities said was a suicide. A sixth suspect is being tried as a juvenile.

The court ruling Friday came just a day after Parliament passed a sweeping new law to protect women against sexual violence in response to the rape.

The law, which moved with lightning speed through a usually slow-paced legislature, makes stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime. It also provides for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim's death.