Indian demonstrators shout slogans and wave placards as they move towards India Gate in New Delhi on December 27, 2012, during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student in the Indian capital.
Credit: Sajjad Hussain

Police in India are sifting through evidence to piece together a timeline of what exactly happened that December night in Delhi when a 23-year-old medical student was brutally raped and beaten to her death aboard a private bus.

Six men — including the bus driver and his brother — were arrested and charged with rape and murder of the student, who died of organ failure in a Singapore hospital last weekend. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

One of the suspects claims has claimed he is a juvenile and will undergo medical testing to determine his age. If he is proved to be underage he will face charges in a separate juvenile court.

Public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan has said strong forensic evidence links the five men to the brutal crime, reports The Economic Times.

According to BBC News, police will be relying on DNA evidence unveiled at a pre-trial hearing held at the District Court in the Saket area of Delhi. 

Mohan told the court that DNA tests had shown that blood stains found on the clothing of all of the accused had matched the blood of the victim. The tests were confirmed by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory.

Mohan said that the accused tried to cover up the evidence by burning their clothes but that traces of blood were still found on parts of the burnt clothes, reports the New Zealand Herald.

Mohan also said that items stolen from the victim had been found in possession of the accused, reports the BBC.

An extensive police report shows that the student tried desperately to protect herself during the attack, biting the men as they held her down and raped her.

Bite marks on the suspects, forensic evidence including blood and semen, and testimony from the woman's boyfriend will all be used as evidence against the men.

The Times of India reports that authorities with Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, where the student was transferred and later died from "septicemia (blood poisoning) from multi-organ failure due to multi-organ injury", will send a postmortem report to police in Delhi.

"Since Safdarjung Hospital was where the treatment began, their doctors will go over the postmortem details, compare it with the treatment she received here and finally give the exact cause of her death," one officials told the Times.

The postmortem report will be a key piece of evidence in the case against the accused.

Sources told the newspaper that the charge sheet would detail how three of the six accused posed as passengers on the bus to lure the couple on board. They said it was the primary reason why the woman and her boyfriend decided to accept a ride on the bus.

Testimony from the woman's boyfriend, who was also badly beaten, will also be key. He told local media that he and the victim had boarded the bus and paid a fare, before he was beaten unconscious.

Two of the six men have reportedly tried to turn state's witness to avoid charges in the case, reports the Times of India.

Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma denied the services of legal aid and instead asked if they could become witnesses in the rape-murder case and testify against their alleged co-attackers.

Legal experts told the newspaper it's unlikely the two will get to turn witness for a lighter sentence in a case as brutal as the alleged gang rape and murder.

The men will face trial in a newly formed fast-track court that some say is long overdue in a country where few rape cases make it to trial. But other legal experts and some feminists told Reuters that they're concerned that calls to punish rape with Draconian penalties including death are unconstitutional and hurt civil liberties.

"If there are not enough convictions, it is not because of an insufficiency of law, but it is the insufficiency of material to base the conviction on," retired Delhi High Court judge R.S. Sodhi told Reuters.

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