NEW DELHI The trial of five men charged with the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus began in a closed courtroom Thursday with opening arguments by the prosecution lawyers in a special fast-track court set up just weeks ago to handle sexual assault cases.
The brutal attack last month set off protests across India and opened a national debate about the epidemic of violence against women. A government committee established in the wake of the attack has called for a complete overhaul of the way the criminal justice system deals with rape, sexual assaults and crimes against women in general.
The five men on trial — who face a maximum sentence of death by hanging if convicted — covered their faces with woolen caps as they walked into the courtroom Thursday surrounded by a phalanx of armed police.
Two hours later, after proceedings were over, they were whisked away by the police.
Details of the day’s proceedings were not available. The courtroom was closed to the public and the media — a routine move in Indian rape cases — even though defense lawyers had argued that since the victim is dead, the proceedings should be opened.
There was also a gag order on the lawyers to not reveal what happened inside the court.