Hospital staff and relatives load the body of Ram Singh, the driver of the bus in which a young woman was gang-raped and fatally injured three months ago, into an ambulance after a postmortem at a hospital in New Delhi yesterday.
A postmortem on a man suspected of leading the gang-rape of a student on a New Delhi bus last December has concluded he died by hanging, a person close to the case said yesterday.
Ram Singh, one of six men on trial over the assault which appalled India and sparked mass protests, was found dead in his cell in high-security Tihar Jail on Monday morning where he had been held since his arrest after the crime.
Amid allegations from his family that he had been killed, the government ordered an investigation and the postmortem was seen as crucial in determining whether it was a suicide as alleged by jail officials.
“All the investigations conducted by us show it’s death due to hanging,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that three doctors at the state-run AIIMS hospital had conducted the autopsy.
The report is set to be submitted in court today, he said.
Singh’s father Mange Lal said yesterday that he had examined his son’s body and had found “multiple injuries” including marks on his chest, face and an injured eye.
“My son was murdered by the three inmates in his cell,” he shouted at the hospital before being ushered away by policemen, an allegation repeated by Singh’s lawyer V K Anand.
The source connected to the case said the postmortem showed only the cause of death and did not reveal whether he had been murdered or not, which was a matter for the police to investigate.
While the postmortem will likely quell some of the speculation about the death, prison authorities will still face serious questions about how the bus driver could have hanged himself from a grille on the ceiling.
He is said to have made a noose out of his clothes and sheets in the cell and succeeded with his suicide bid without waking the other men in his cell or attracting attention from guards who are meant to monitor suspects.
The death was a major lapse in prison security, federal Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said in parliament.
Singh was charged along with four other men and a 17-year-old over the brutal December 16 attack on a physiotherapy student who was lured on to a bus and repeatedly raped.
Left with horrific internal injuries, the 23-year-old died 13 days after the assault, leading to an outpouring of anger over endemic crime against women in India and a review of rape laws.
Singh was accused by police of being the ringleader in the gang-rape and his parents said on Monday that he was ready to accept his punishment having confessed privately to taking part.
On the night of the attack, the suspects allegedly gathered at Singh’s home for dinner and drinks before taking the bus for a joyride, fooling travellers who mistook the vehicle for genuine public transport.
Singh, a migrant from Rajasthan, was the first of the accused to be arrested after police pulled over the private bus, which was normally used to ferry schoolchildren.
All five adult suspects including Singh pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A special watch has been mounted on the four accused in Tihar Jail, an official said.
“They are on special watch and an officer has been deputed to keep a tab on their activities,” the jail official said.
“We are focusing a CCTV camera on their cell to increase surveillance on them,” he added.
The watch is meant to prevent the four from causing possible harm to themselves, the official said.
Two of the rapists, Pawan, 19, and Akshay, 29, are held in Jail No 4 of Tihar Jail while Vinay, 20, and Mukesh, 26, are in Jail No 7.
Death won’t derail trial: police
The death of Ram Singh, the alleged prime accused in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape, would not affect the case, police said yesterday. “The case is on the right track. Ram Singh’s death will not affect the case as we have enough evidence and witnesses,” said Anil Kumar, the investigation officer of the gang-rape case. “Ram Singh was one of the prime accused in the case. His death has no relation with the further proceeding in the case,” the investigation officer said. A day-to-day hearing into the case is going on in a fast-track court here. The other accused facing trial are Ram Singh’s brother Mukesh, 26, fruit seller Pawan Gupta, 19, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, 20, and bus cleaner Akshay Thakur, 29. All of them are now in Tihar Jail.
Parties to meet on anti-rape legislation
Amid differences of opinion in the cabinet over the proposed anti-rape law, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde yesterday expressed confidence that the government will resolve the issue by tomorrow and secure parliamentary approval for the legislation by March 22.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath has called an all-party meeting on March 18 to discuss the bill. He has already spoken to leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party over the issue, sources said.
There is a sense of urgency in passing the law by March 22 as the bill will replace an ordinance promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 3 and has to be passed within six weeks from that date.
The first half of the budget session ends on March 22 and the house will reconvene on April 22.
The issue has been in sharp focus after the brutal assault and gang-rape of a woman in Delhi on December 16, 2012. She died of her injuries on December 29 in Singapore.
As differences of opinion prevailed among ministers at a special cabinet meeting called to pass the bill, the government decided to refer the legislation to a Group of Ministers (GoM) to resolve the issue.
“The GoM meetings will be held soon. We are confident that the issue will be resolved by Thursday. We will pass the bill by March 22,” Shinde told reporters.
According to informed sources, the points of disagreement over the bill relate to provisions making it gender neutral, lowering the age of juvenile criminals from 18 to 16 besides provisions prescribing punishment for stalking and voyeurism.
While Finance Minister P Chidambaram wants the bill to be gender neutral by replacing the word “rape” with “sexual assault,” women activists have impressed upon the government to retain the word “rape” so that the law is seen as specifically for crimes against women.