India court orders seven to hang for Nepali woman's rape, murder

NEW DELHI (AFP) - An Indian court sentenced seven men to death on Monday (Dec 21) after they were convicted of the rape and murder of a Nepalese woman suffering from mental illness, reports said.

The 28-year-old woman went missing on Feb 1 this year in Rohtak city in northern Haryana state, where she had been living with her sister while undergoing treatment at a hospital.

An autopsy at the time had revealed that stones, blades and sticks were forced inside her during the attack.

Her mutilated body was found in a field beside a highway three days later.

"I award the death sentence to all these accused in the case, and they should be hanged till death," Judge Seema Singhal said, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper's website.

"Besides a judicial officer, I am also a human being and can hear the groan of the victim," she added.

"Women are still facing crime and discrimination from males in our society and we still see gender bias in our system, but the judgement should send a strong message to the people and that is the need of the hour."

A minor boy accused in the case is reportedly being tried in a juvenile court, while a ninth suspect committed suicide soon after his arrest.

The judge's comments come on the same day India's top court rejected an appeal against the release of the youngest attacker in a fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi on a moving bus in 2012, sparking fury from the victim's parents and a massive public outcry.

The youngest of the convicts was sent to a juvenile correctional facility for a three-year term - the maximum allowed under Indian law.

The India Today news network website quoted one of the convicted men in the Haryana case as saying, "we did not want to kill her, we wanted to enjoy" in a confession to police.

"We do not know what happened to us. We were not in our senses. We were drunk and the madness went on," the accused reportedly said.

The sister of the Nepalese victim expressed relief with Monday's verdict but said "the soul of my sister will rest in peace when the accused will be hanged to death".