An autopsy on one of six men accused of gang raping and murdering a young woman in New Delhi will be performed today as jail authorities and the man’s family gave differing accounts of his final hours.
Officials at the capital’s high security Tihar prison said Ram Singh, 33, committed suicide early yesterday, using a torn up carpet to hang himself from a ceiling grill in his cell. His family and lawyer said that Singh was murdered and had previously been attacked by other inmates for his crimes.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said yesterday a preliminary investigation had shown that Singh took his own life as he admitted that the death was a major security lapse. Singh was midway through a trial for the murder, rape and kidnap of the medical student who was attacked on a bus on Dec. 16 as she returned home from the cinema. She died from her injuries in a Singapore hospital two weeks later.
“The autopsy will be done today under the guidance of a team of doctors,” said Rakesh Yadav, spokesman for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the hospital in south Delhi where the post mortem will be carried out. “The report will then be submitted to the court and concerned authority.”
The brutal attack on the 23-year-old medical student shocked India and reverberated around the world, triggering street protests and drawing attention to the scale of sexual violence against women in the world’s largest democracy. India’s government has toughened sentences for sexual assaults amid the public outcry.
Singh was one of five men and a juvenile on trial for rape, murder and kidnapping. Five of the alleged attackers are appearing at a specially convened fast-track court in New Delhi, which is closed to the media. The sixth is facing a juvenile justice board as he’s been declared under 18 at the time of the attack. All denied the charges against them.
V.K. Anand, Singh’s lawyer, said yesterday that “foul play” was involved in his client’s death. Anand told reporters that when he met Singh last week he appeared in good health and was content with how the trial was proceeding.
Singh’s father told the Press Trust of India his son had been murdered, and demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Singh was held in a cell with four other inmates who told prison officials they were asleep and heard nothing unusual at the time Singh is said to have killed himself, the news agency reported.
The six men accused of the rape and murder met at Singh’s home in a New Delhi slum on the evening of the attack, and used the school bus that he drove in his job, police have said.
In the brutal two-hour assault that followed, the woman was allegedly repeatedly raped before being dumped naked along with a male friend beside a road near New Delhi’s airport. The couple were then ignored by passersby and police argued over where to take them as they lay bleeding on the street, according to televised comments by the man who survived the attack. Neither have been officially named.