NEW DELHI (AP) — A bone test is being conducted to confirm the age of a young suspect in custody in the fatal assault and gang rape of a woman on a bus in India's capital, while prosecutors will seek the death penalty for five other men arrested with him, police said.
The six will be formally charged in court on Thursday on accusations that they kidnapped, gang raped and murdered the 23-year-old woman in New Delhi on Dec. 16, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said Tuesday.
Media reports say some 30 witnesses have been gathered, and the charges have been detailed in a document running more than 1,000 pages.
Outraged Indians have been demanding the death penalty for the six men, holding demonstrations almost every day since the rape. Murder is punishable by death and rape by life imprisonment. But juveniles — those below 18 years of age — cannot be prosecuted for murder.
Another police officer said a bone test is being conducted to determine if the youngest suspect is indeed a juvenile. If the test determines he is 18 years or older he will be treated as an adult, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose sensitive information.
Doctors can confirm a person's age by evaluating X-rays and determining the maturity of the person's bones.
The brutality of the case has made Indians confront the reality that sexual violence is deeply entrenched in the society. Women face daily harassment, from catcalls on streets and groping in buses to rapes. Often police refuse to accept complaints by female victims and even accuse them of inviting unwanted male attention by dressing provocatively. Families also dissuade victims from coming forward in the belief that it will ruin their reputations.
Activists hope the savage assault on the woman, a physiotherapy student, will shake off the taboo and make authorities take such cases more seriously.