A defendant accused of gang raping and murdering a student in New Delhi in an attack that shocked India has been declared a juvenile by a court, meaning the maximum sentence he can receive is three years in jail.
The Juvenile Justice Board in India’s capital said the male is 17 years old, citing his school records, CNN-IBN television reported. Prosecutors have sought the death penalty for the other five accused who are being tried in a specially convened fast-track court.
“Sentencing is far too lenient for juveniles in India,” D.B Goswami, a Supreme Court lawyer specializing in criminal cases said in an interview after the ruling. “If you are old enough to rape a woman, then you are old enough to know what you are doing and face the consequences.”
Indian political leaders have been calling for tougher sentences for criminals under the age of 18 in the wake of the woman’s murder. The brutal attack on the medical student as she returned home after watching a movie on Dec. 16 triggered street protests and drew attention to the scale of sexual violence against women in the world’s largest democracy.
A woman was raped every 22 minutes in 2011, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. There were 572 cases of rape reported in New Delhi that year, a 23 percent increase from 2008. The rise may reflect a greater confidence in reporting assaults.
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