A defendant on trial over a fatal gang rape in New Delhi last December is critically ill after being attacked in prison, his lawyer said yesterday, weeks after the main accused died in the same jail.
Vinay Sharma was rushed to the state-run Lok Nayak Hospital in New Delhi on Tuesday with chest injuries after he was assaulted in Tihar Jail, lawyer AP Singh said, also alleging that his client’s food had been poisoned.
“He was vomiting blood and running a very high fever. He was also suffering from chest pains. He is in a very critical condition,” Singh said. The chest pains came after Sharma (20) was “beaten up and thrashed” by fellow inmates at the maximum-security jail, the lawyer added.
He said the vomiting had been caused by the “slow poisoning” of his food over a period of several weeks. “He was being given food mixed with poison since the start of this month. He was first admitted to the clinic inside the jail but was later moved to a city hospital. He was shifted again to another hospital when his condition worsened,” Singh said.
The head of the hospital refused to comment on the case, while there was no immediate reaction from authorities at Tihar. One of Sharma’s co-defendants, bus driver Ram Singh, was found hanged in his cell in the same prison in March. Although an inquest ruled he had committed suicide his lawyers allege that he was murdered.
Sharma is one of four adults still on trial for the murder and gang rape of a 23-year-old student who was attacked on a bus on December 16. The victim died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital 13 days later.
A fifth defendant, who is aged 17, is being tried in a juvenile court. The defendants have all entered not-guilty pleas and their lawyers have accused police of torturing the defendants to obtain confessions.
Prosecutors say they have DNA evidence linking the defendants to the attack in which the student and a male companion were assaulted on a bus as it was driven around the city, having been picked up after a trip to the cinema.
The case led to months of soul-searching over widespread sexual crime in India, and resulted in tougher laws to punish rapists. Singh said the judge hearing the case at a special fast-track court in the city had on Tuesday dismissed his plea that Sharma be granted bail on “humanitarian grounds”.
“The judge dismissed the bail application but he has allowed my client’s family to visit him,” Singh said. Sharma, who earned around Rs 5,000 a month as a helper at a gym prior to his arrest, has claimed that he was attending a musical function with two of his friends when the gang rape took place. The family of the victim has demanded the death penalty for all the accused.