NEW DELHI - Defence lawyers began cross-examining Wednesday the male companion of a student who was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi at the trial of five adults accused of her murder, the man's father said.
The cross-examination comes after the companion, who is the chief prosecution witness, had on Tuesday identified the bus on which the fatal attack took place on December 16. The bus had been brought to the court compound.
The five adult defendants have all denied murder, rape and robbery charges for which they are being tried at a special fast-track court in the Saket district of the Indian capital. A sixth defendant is being tried separately as a juvenile.
The 23-year-old medical student died in a Singapore hospital on December 29 from massive internal injuries she sustained during the savage bus assault a fortnight earlier, which caused outrage across India. She and her companion had spent the evening at the cinema and were lured onto the off-duty bus after failing to flag down an autorickshaw to take them home.
As well as taking turns to rape the woman and violating her with a rusty iron bar, the group attacked her companion so badly that he is still unable to walk properly. He again appeared at the court on Wednesday in a wheelchair.
The judge has banned all reporting of proceedings inside the courtroom and ordered lawyers not to speak to journalists.
Also on Wednesday, police arrested a man for allegedly shoving a metal rod down the throat of a 22-year-old woman during an attempted rape at her home in New Delhi, detectives said. "The accused tried to rape the girl and when she resisted his move, he shoved a rod inside her mouth," Ajay Chaudhry, a senior police officer investigating the case, told AFP. "We have arrested the accused. A case of assault and attempt to murder has been registered." The victim underwent surgery but is stable now, the officer added.
Police say the suspect had called round at the house on the pretext of collecting the monthly electricity charge and then tried to rape the woman on finding her alone.
She sustained severe injuries in her mouth and was left with bruises all around her neck, Chaudhry said.
In another incident of sexual assault which was reported in the local media on Wednesday, a 22-year-old woman was left with a damaged uterus after an alleged gang-rape in northern Uttarakhand state.
The Hindustan Times said three men gang-raped the woman after spiking her drink at a birthday party in the industrial town of Kashipur.
"We are conducting the necessary forensic tests and DNA samples are also being collected so that the guilty are not spared," the newspaper quoted senior police officer Sanjay Gunjyal as saying.
The December 16 gang-rape triggered mass protests across India and shone a spotlight on the frightening incidence of violence against women in the country.
A total of 24,206 rape cases were registered in 2011 although activists say those statistics represent only a fraction of the overall total due to the social stigma attached to reporting such crimes to the police.