India rape case teen to be tried as juvenile; victim's family angry

Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:33am EST
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By Arup Roychoudhury and Annie Banerji

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian teenager accused of taking part in the December 16 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi will be tried as a juvenile, facing a maximum of three years in prison if convicted, a special panel ruled on Monday.

The ruling shocked the victim's father, who watched the news flash across his television screen.

"A sudden current ran through my body in disbelief. I can't believe this," the father told Reuters. "How can they declare him a minor? Do they not see what they did?"

The teenager has not yet been formally charged because police were hoping he would be declared an adult so they could include him in the main trial of his five co-accused.

He does not have a lawyer and his account of what happened on December 16 is not known.

Lawyers for the five accused men said they would plead not guilty and one has accused police of torturing him, his lawyer said.

The panel's decision on the youth is likely to infuriate many people, including protesters, some police and political leaders, who have called for the age at which people can be tried as adults to be lowered to 16 from 18.

A government committee examining changes to sexual crime laws, however, last week ruled out such a move.   Continued...