The High Court in New Delhi [official website] on Saturday began the appeal of the death penalty sentence for the fatal gang-rape of an Indian student last December. Although six men were charged [JURIST report] with the rape and murder of the student, only four received the death penalty [AFP report]. The fifth suspect died while imprisoned in an apparent suicide, and the sixth was a minor at the time of the assault and was sentenced to three years in a reformatory, the maximum penalty permitted for juveniles. The trial court described the crime as one of the "rarest of rare" crimes which permit the use of the death penalty. Oral arguments on the matter are set to begin on Friday.
There has been a growing outcry for harsher penalties and reform in technical aspects India's law since the rape and subsequent death [BBC reports] of a medical student last December. Four of the men charged with the rape were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging [AFP report] in September. A minority in India's legal community have expressed reservations [JURIST op-ed] about the use of the death penalty for a rape conviction, as discussed by JURIST Guest Columnist Ashish Goel. In response to public pressure, India passed into law [JURIST report] an anti-rape bill in April providing for life imprisonment and death sentences for rapists, a move criticized [JURIST op-ed] by JURIST Guest Columnist Kim Brancato as insufficient to address India's need for women's rights legislation.