Stage set for gang rape trial

New Delhi, Feb. 2: A special fast-track court today framed charges against five of the six accused in the December 16 gang rape of a 23-year-old trainee paramedic in Delhi.

The charges have been framed under 13 sections of the IPC, including murder, gang rape, destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy, and pave the way for the start of the trial early next week.

"The five accused pleaded not guilty to the charges," a senior police officer said.

Delhi police have sought death for the five accused, citing the brutality of the incident that makes it a "rarest of the rare" case.

The gang-raped girl, who was assaulted with an iron rod and had lost most of her intestine, had died of her injuries days later.

The trial will be held in-camera.

The sixth accused has been declared a minor by the Juvenile Justice Board, which is hearing his case.

Sonia visits girl kin

Hours after the court framed the charges, Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul visited the girl's family at their home in Dwarka in south-west Delhi.

An emotional Sonia hugged the girl's mother, expressed solidarity with the family and had tea with them.

"She held the hands of the victim's mother before hugging her several times. It was an emotional moment and both the women cried," a source said.

Accompanied by Rahul and Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury, Sonia drove to the victim's house around 6pm.

"She (Sonia) spoke of how the Gandhi family had also gone through loss in life. The victim's family told her they knew about the sacrifice of the Gandhi family and how she had lost her mother-in-law and her husband," the source added.

The visit came a day after the Centre approved an ordinance to strengthen laws to fight sexual crimes against women following the recommendations of the J.S. Verma panel constituted after the December 16 gang rape.

During the hour-long interaction, Sonia and Rahul had tea served by the victim's mother. "They sat on a cot and spoke to the victim's mother, father and two brothers," the source said.

Later, Rahul sat next to the girl's father and her brothers. "He offered all the help to the family and gave his phone number to the brothers ' one has cleared Class XII and the other is studying in Class X," the source added.

The parents also congratulated Rahul for becoming Congress vice-president.

Two days ago, the victim's parents had sought an audience with Sonia to urge swift action on the Verma panel recommendations.

The mother recounted what her daughter had gone through in Safdarjang Hospital for several days before being shifted to a Singapore hospital where she died of multi-organ failure on December 29.

"The victim's parents narrated how they had struggled to educate their three children. They requested Soniaji to ensure such incidents don't recur. They expressed happiness over yesterday's ordinance," said a relative.

The family was surprised to see Sonia and Rahul in their modest house, the relative said. "For a moment, they could not believe it. They wanted to meet Soniaji but they were very much surprised to see her at their house."

Mahabal Mishra, the Congress MP from West Delhi, was also present during the interaction.

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