A juvenile suspect in the brutal gang-rape of a woman on Dec. 16 on board a bus in India’s capital, New Delhi, was convicted on Saturday, on charges of rape and murder, in the first verdict handed down in the case, which spurred nationwide protests and global media attention.
The convict, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to three years in a reform facility -- the maximum punishment for a juvenile under Indian law.
The father of the victim, who spoke to reporters outside the court before the verdict was delivered, said: “We only want him to be hanged, that’s all. He had knowledge of what he was doing. How can he be considered a juvenile?” Hindustan Times reported.
The case had sparked debates on laws concerning crimes committed by minors, and the victim’s family and many among the public had demanded that the juvenile suspect should be treated as an adult and handed down the death penalty.
The prime suspect in the Delhi gang-rape case was found dead in prison, on March 11, while the trial was in progress in a special fast-track court.
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The trial of the remaining four suspects is underway in the fast-track court, which is expected to deliver verdicts in mid-September.
The juvenile convict, who cannot be named, and the four adult suspects -- Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur -- pleaded not guilty in the trial.
The victim succumbed to her injuries while undergoing treatment in Singapore, two weeks after the tragedy.
The incident pressured the government to revise India's rape laws, and on March 20, a new bill was approved to include harsher punishments for sexual assaults, including the death penalty for repeat offenders and for rape attacks that lead to the victim’s death.
On Aug. 22, India’s Supreme Court had admitted a plea that sought to alter the legal interpretation of the term “juvenile,” so that it considers the mental maturity of offenders, rather than the physical age limit of 18 years.