A court in India on Friday convicted [Indian Express report] six of the eight accused of gang raping and murdering a 20-year-old college student in the Kamduni village district of the state of West Bengal. The conviction comes after more than two-and-a-half years since the incident, which prompted strong public pressure to prosecute and convict the individuals involved. Two of the men accused were found not guilty due to lack of evidence, while one had previously died while the trial was ongoing. Both the prosecution and the defense were equally unhappy with the result, albeit for different reasons, and the defense has already vowed to appeal the decision to a higher court. Arshad Ali, brother of one of the accused, claims that his brother has been framed as part of a political conspiracy, while women’s rights activist Ramala Chakraborty criticized the government for the delayed decision and acquittal of two of the individuals. Judge Sanchita Sarkar pronounced the verdict at 2:00 PM, but according to prosecutor Aninda Rout, the order describing the ruling is yet to be released. Three of the convicts face a possible death penalty, while the rest face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
There have been a flurry of incidents involving gang-rapes of women in India the past few years, prompting the government to reform the criminal legal code in regard to sexual violence. In December 2012 a 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped and murdered in a moving bus in New Delhi. The rape was especially violent causing the victim to die from severe injuries sustained in the incident. The youngest participant in that incident was freed [BBC report] from jail in December after serving a three-year sentence. The rape sparked national outrage, and created immense pressure on the government to reform its “colonial-era laws” [JURIST op-ed]. Prominent human rights groups such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] have criticized [JURIST report] various aspects of the new laws stating that India has only reformed the most archaic of its laws and has failed to meet international standards for women’s rights.