NEW DELHI // Documents presented during a hearing yesterday indicated that one of the suspects in the fatal gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus in December was a juvenile at the time of the attack, a court official said.
Two principals from the suspect's school presented the paperwork. If he is ruled to be a child in the eyes of the law, he would be ineligible for the death penalty.
Figuring out the young suspect's exact age could be complicated. It is thought he has no birth certificate - a common problem in India, where many people are born at home. In such cases, school records are often used as proof of age or identity.
A judge is expected to rule on the suspect's age in a hearing on January 28, the official said.
The suspect did not appear in court yesterday. He would face a maximum of three years in a reform facility if convicted as a juvenile. A conviction as an adult could be punished by execution.
Five other men have been charged in the case, which has turned an international spotlight on sexual abuse and attitudes towards women in India. One of them also now says he is a minor.
The 23-year-old victim and a male friend boarded the bus on December 16 after leaving a cinema. It turned out to be off-duty and was being driven by a group of friends who, police said, attacked the couple and then took turns raping the woman.
They also abused her repeatedly with a metal bar, causing massive internal injuries. The victims were eventually dumped on the roadside. The woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.