NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The youngest of six people convicted of the 2012 gang rape of a woman, in a case that shocked India, was freed on Sunday, a lawyer said, after a court refused to extend his three-year sentence.
The case turned a global spotlight on the treatment of women in India, where police say a rape is reported every 20 minutes, and the sentence sparked debate over whether the country is too soft on young offenders.
“The juvenile offender has been handed over to an NGO (non-governmental organization) for the time being,” Ashok Verma, one of the lawyers representing him, told Reuters.
Verma declined to give further details.
The Delhi Commission for Women has moved a plea against the release in India’s top court, which it has agreed to hear on Monday.
“The juvenile won’t have to appear before the Supreme Court tomorrow unless it passes a summons or notice to him,” R.K. Tripathy, a lawyer who is not directly involved in the case, told Reuters.
More than a hundred people, including the victim’s parents, gathered in New Delhi to protest against the release.
The Delhi high court on Friday heard a petition by a ruling-party politician Subramanian Swamy demanding a longer sentence for the offender, who was 17 at the time of the crime, after he had received the maximum punishment of three years from the Juvenile Justice Board.
The high court judges said they could not halt the release because his sentence had complied with existing law.
In 2012, the juvenile and five adult companions lured a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist and her male friend onto a bus in the Indian capital, where they repeatedly raped the woman and beat both with a metal bar before dumping them on a road.
The woman died two weeks later of her injuries. Four of the adults were sentenced to death while the fifth hanged himself in prison. The death sentences have not yet been carried out.
Police accused the teenager of being violent, and said he pulled out part of the woman’s intestines with his hands.
India responded to the public outcry over the rape by fast-tracking tougher laws against sex crimes, and members of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have pushed to change the juvenile law and reduce the age of attaining adulthood to 16, from 18.
Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Malini Menon; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Andrew Bolton