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    Five charged in fatal rape aboard bus in India

    Indians gathered for a candlelight vigil for the victim of a gang rape who died from injuries sustained in the attack.
    Tsering Topgyal/ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Indians gathered for a candlelight vigil for the victim of a gang rape who died from injuries sustained in the attack.

    NEW DELHI — Police filed formal charges of rape and murder in a New Delhi court on Thursday against five men accused of gang raping a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus, an incident that sparked nationwide outrage and grief.

    The young woman, a medical student, died Saturday at a hospital in Singapore, where she had been taken for treatment of severe injuries and infections.

    Her name has not been released, in accordance with Indian law that prohibits the naming of sexual assault victims.


    Police had arrested six suspects, including the bus driver, his brother, and friends. But Thursday’s charge sheet did not include the sixth person because he has told authorities he is a juvenile. The individual, who also is suspected of sexually assaulting the woman, has undergone a medical test to confirm his age, police said. If he is found to be underage, he will face charges in a separate juvenile justice court.

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    The charges were filed late in the day, after the main judge left the court. They include gang rape, murder, unnatural offenses, kidnapping, robbery, and destruction of evidence, a police official told reporters.

    According to the Press Trust of India, the police sought court permission to keep the charges sealed, to protect the identity of the victim, and asked that the trial be closed to the public.

    A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Saturday.

    The victim and her male friend were returning home from a movie Dec. 16 when they were brutally beaten — and the woman was raped — on board the bus, a privately owned vehicle that ferried schoolchildren by day.


    The bus was supposed to be off the road when the incident occurred, but the driver, his brother, and their friends were out on a joyride that night and had stopped at the bus stop to offer the medical student and her companion a ride, police said.

    After the attack, the woman and her companion were forced off the vehicle and left in the street. The woman’s companion told police that the bus tried to run her over, but he managed to pull her out of its path in time.

    The police took the victim’s testimony before her death and interviewed about 40 witnesses. They also examined forensic evidence and footage from hidden cameras, which showed images of the bus during the reported hour of the attack.

    The horrific assault caused a national uproar here. Thousands of young men and women marched through the streets, many of them holding placards demanding the death penalty for the accused.

    The rape case will be tried in a new fast-track court that will hold hearings on a daily basis, a rarity in India’s crawling judicial system, where trials can drag on for decades.


    Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, who on Wednesday inaugurated the first of four fast-track courts in New Delhi for cases of violence against women, said the judicial system must move more efficiently to avoid citizen attempts at vigilante justice.

    ‘‘People’s reaction has been: ‘Do not send the accused to trial. Hand them over to us. We will deal with them. Hang them,’ ’’ Kabir said. ‘‘But let us not get carried away.’’