Outrage over India gang-rape sentence as teenager gets three years in reform home

In the first verdict in the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student that shocked the country into toughening its rape laws, a teenager has been sentenced to three years in a reform home, sparking new outrage.

Defence lawyer Rajesh Tiwari said that the 18-year-old, who was 17 at the time of the crime, had received the maximum sentence for his role in the crime.

That includes the eight months he has already spent in custody.

The victim's family was in the juvenile court when the long-awaited verdict was delivered. The court was closed to the media, but journalists packed the narrow lane outside.

Upon hearing the sentence, a small group of protesters who felt it was too light broke into angry chants of "We want justice, we want justice... hang him".

The victim's parents expressed shock. "What was the point of this? It was better to just let him off now," said the father of the victim, brushing tears from his eyes. "I want justice. Where will I go?"

The victim's mother said the crime warranted a harsher punishment. "I request the law to treat it as a special case," she said. "He destroyed a life."

Mr Vikas Tyagi, 29, was outside the court wearing a black band around his head. "We want the world to know that the protests are still on," he said. "We want justice and we want to tell the family that we stand with them."

According to the police, the teen and five adult males repeatedly raped the 23-year-old woman, brutalising her with a metal rod, and beat her male companion on board a moving bus in Delhi on Dec 16 last year.

The woman died from massive injuries two weeks later at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

Four men - Mukesh Singh, 26, Pawan Gupta, 19, Vinay Sharma, 20 and Akshay Thakur, 28 - who are still on trial, face possible death sentences. A fifth man, Ram Singh, described as the ringleader, committed suicide in his jail cell in March.

The crime shocked the world. Young Indians took to the streets to protest against the plight of women in India where police say a rape is reported every 20 minutes.

The demonstrations prompted the government to strengthen rape laws and set up fast track courts, but the spotlight is now on juvenile sentencing.

Bharatiya Janata Party politician Subramanian Swamy told reporters yesterday that he would appeal against the teen's sentence.

Mr S.K. Singh, a lawyer for the victim's parents, also said he would appeal.

"We will challenge his claim that he is a minor in the Delhi High Court," said Mr Singh. "We will ask for tests. That is what the family wants."