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All hospitals must treat rape victims, Delhi court says

Delhi's high court has ordered the city to tell all hospitals, whether they are private or government-run, not to deny treatment to victims of rape and road accidents, the Times of India reported.

Order follows January gang rape of 23-year-old woman, who later died

An activist dressed as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stands on a pink bus meant to spread awareness on violence against women in New Delhi, India. The gang-rape of a young women aboard a moving bus last month sparked widespread protests. (Manish Swarup/Associated Press)

Delhi's high court has ordered the city to tell all hospitals, whether they are private or government-run, not to deny treatment to victims of rape and road accidents, the Times of India reported.

The directive, issued Thursday, comes a month after a 23-year-old student was brutally gang-raped on a Delhi bus and then left on the roadside. She died of her injuries two weeks later.

The victim’s friend, who was also injured in the attack, later said that police who arrived at the scene argued over which state-run hospital was closest, BBC News reported.

The BBC says treatment is often delayed over issues of payment if a victim is taken to a private hospital.

"We direct the principal secretary, health department of Delhi government, to issue directions to all the hospitals, including private hospitals, to attend to victims of gang rape, victims of other crimes, particularly road accident victims," a court headed by Chief Justice D. Murugesan said.

"They [must] be given first-aid treatment or treatment depending upon their conditions."

Murugesan scheduled another hearing for Feb. 28.

"The commissioner of police will issue a direction [to police officials] immediately after an order is passed by the Delhi government to take such persons or victims to a nearby hospital for treatment," Justice V. K. Jain told the Times of India. He said the Delhi government assured him it would pass the order within the month.

Indian panel on crimes against women

Meanwhile, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday that his government will act promptly to implement the recommendations of a commission on how to improve laws dealing with crimes against women.

The three-member panel, set up in response to the Delhi gang rape, recommended an increase in the penalty for rape to 20 years and suggested life terms for gang rape, but stopped short of recommending the death penalty for rape.

The report also pushed for amendments to the law to include crimes like stalking, cyber-stalking and voyeurism and suggested stiff punishments for such crimes.

The panel also recommended that police and other officials who fail to act against crimes against women be punished. It suggested that the government appoint more judges to lessen the backlog of cases and ensure swift justice.

With files from The Associated Press