Two of the six accused of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in the Indian capital of New Delhi, now claim they will act as witnesses, to avoid a possible death penalty.
All five suspects will be produced in a special court on 7 January and be notified of charges against them; the Delhi police have prepared a 33-page document (the annexure runs into 1,000 pages) detailing the extent and brutality of the crime. The document ends with the demand that all accused be handled the death penalty.
The sixth suspect has claimed to be a minor. The Juvenile Justice Board is looking into the claim and have summoned the principal of his school for further inquiry. Should his claim be upheld, he will likely receive no more than a three-year jail term (the maximum allowed for a minor) despite the fact he was believed to have been the most brutal of the attackers.
It now appears two of the men involved have claimed they will provide evidence and an eye-witness account of the gruesome crime. This is believed to a common tactic by investigators, who look to one of the accused to become an approver in order to collect missing details. The trade-off for the accused is a lesser punishment.
However, given the severity of the crime and the amount of exposure it has generated, experts opine the duo is unlikely to be given a chance to turn into witnesses in this gang-rape case. Apart from rape and murder, the five accused face nearly a dozen other charges.
"All the accused persons were informed that they can seek legal aid in the case, if they have not engaged any counsel. Accused Pawan and Vinay have refused to take service of the legal aid counsel and have submitted that they want to become witnesses on behalf of the state," said the magistrate after the extending period of judicial custody of the accused.
"Accused Pawan and Vinay have been directed to move an appropriate application to become witnesses in the case before the court concerned," the magistrate's order continued.
Four of the accused were produced in court over the weekend, as their judicial custody had expired. The order was given in an open courtroom and, so far, no orders of prohibition have been issued to the media.