NEW DELHI // The youngest of six people convicted of the 2012 gang rape of a woman, in a case that shocked India, was freed on Sunday after a court refused to extend his three-year sentence.
More than a hundred people gathered in New Delhi on Sunday to protest against the release.
The case turned a global spotlight on the treatment of women in India, where police say a rape is reported every 20 minutes.
The sentence also sparked debate over whether the country is too soft on young offenders.
The Delhi Commission for Women has moved a plea against the release in India’s top court, which it has agreed to hear on Monday.
News of the release was immediately condemned by the parents of the victim, a medical student who died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital nearly two weeks after the attack on December 16, 2012.
“Our fight was all about this convict not being allowed to walk free. If he has come out, what is the point of the hearing at the Supreme Court?” the mother of the victim told reporters.
“We want justice for our daughter.”
India media said the 20-year-old convict, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been handed over to a charitable organisation on Sunday but police sources said the move had actually taken place some days ago.
“The juvenile offender has been handed over to an NGO for the time being,” Ashok Verma, one of the lawyers representing him, said, declining to give further details.
“He has been given a new identity and his criminal record has been expunged,” a police source added.
The Delhi high court on Friday heard a petition by a ruling-party politician Subramanian Swamy demanding a longer sentence for the offender, who was 17 at the time of the crime, after he had received the maximum punishment of three years from the juvenile justice board.
The high court judges said they could not halt the release because his sentence had complied with existing law.
In 2012, the juvenile and five adult companions lured a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist and her male friend onto a bus in the Indian capital, where they repeatedly raped the woman and beat both with a metal bar before dumping them on a road.
The woman died two weeks later of her injuries. Four of the adults were sentenced to death while the fifth hanged himself in prison. The death sentences have not yet been carried out.
Police accused the teenager of being violent, and said he pulled out part of the woman’s intestines with his hands.
India responded to the public outcry over the rape by fast-tracking tougher laws against sex crimes, and members of the government of prime minister Narendra Modi have pushed to change the juvenile law and reduce the age of attaining adulthood to 16, from 18.
* Reuters and Agence France-Presse