March 11, 2013 - 10:56 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A man on trial for the gang rape and fatal beating of a woman aboard a bus in New Delhi committed suicide in an Indian jail early Monday, March 11, raising further questions about a criminal justice system already criticized for failing to protect the nation's women, The Associated Press reported.
Ram Singh, who was accused of driving the bus on which the 23-year-old student was raped by a group of six men in December, was under suicide watch at New Delhi's Tihar Jail when he hanged himself with his own clothes at about 5:30 a.m., police officials said.
Singh and his four fellow defendants were facing the death penalty if convicted of the attack, which horrified Indians and set off national protests. A sixth accused is being tried and jailed separately because he is a juvenile.
Singh's lawyer and his family alleged foul play in his death and said he had been assaulted in jail prior to his death.
"What do you mean killed himself? He has been killed in prison," said Singh's lawyer, A. P. Singh. Lawyers for the defendants had previously accused police of beating confessions out of the men.
Ram Singh's father, Mangelal Singh, said his son had been raped in prison by other inmates and had been repeatedly threatened by inmates and guards. Nevertheless, he said he visited his son four days ago and the man appeared fine and gave no hint of the despair that could drive him to take his own life.
Ram Singh also had a badly injured hand and would have been unable to orchestrate a suicide, his father said, speaking from outside his small home in a New Delhi slum.
"Somebody has killed him," he said, insisting he would push for a top level investigation into the death.
Mangelal Singh said he feared for the safety of another son who is also on trial in the rape case.
The defendants were being housed in separate buildings on the jail grounds and were all under suicide watch, a jail official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Indian jails have a reputation for overcrowding, poor management and brutal treatment of inmates.