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Death of Delhi rape case accused 'a lapse'

  • Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde admitted on Monday that the death of a suspect in the rape and murder of a female student in the capital New Delhi was a “major lapse in security”.

    According to police, Ram Singh hanged himself in New Delhi's Tihar jail. However, his defence lawyers and family claim he was murdered.

    Shinde has pledged for an investigation to be launched. He added that authorities would only respond after the probe had reached its conclusions, expected in two or three weeks' time.

    "It is a major lapse in security, certainly it is not a small incident. Action will be taken," Shinde said.

    Singh, 33, was one of five men held in the case. They all deny the charges.

    A sixth suspect is being tried by a juvenile court.

    A spokesman for Tihar jail said that Singh appeared to have hanged himself with an improvised rope fashioned out of a blanket at around 5am local time.

    Tihar jail is India's most high-security prison and holds more than 12,000 inmates, even though it has an official capacity of about 6,000.

    Meanwhile, V.K. Anand, defence lawyer for Singh said: "There has to be some foul play here"

    According to Anand, Singh had not been on suicide watch and is believed to have been able to make a noose and attach it to a metal grill while his three cellmates were asleep.

    Singh's father, Mangelal Singh, said his son had a badly injured hand and would not have been able to hang himself.

    He also said that his son had been raped in prison by other inmates and threatened by prisoners and guards.

    Singh’s body was taken for a post-mortem examination earlier in the day.

    The 23-year-old rape victim, who was not named for legal reasons, was with a male friend when she was attacked and thrown from a bus on December 16.

    She died in a Singapore hospital two weeks later due to massive internal injuries.

    Singh and the four other adult defendants, his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, have been on trial in a fast-track court.

    The men face 13 charges, including murder, gang rape, kidnapping and destruction of evidence. 

    If found guilty, they could face the death penalty. The maximum sentence for the juvenile would be three years in a reform facility.

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