India gang-rape victim's parents pursue legal action over jailhouse interview

The parents of a woman raped and killed on a New Delhi bus in 2012 explains to CBC News why they have turned to the courts after controversial comments from one of the perpetrators in a new documentary came to light this week.

Warning: story contains disturbing content

The parents of Delhi rape and murder victim, Asha Devi, left, and Badri Nath Pandey, say the interview with Murkesh Singh should never have been allowed. (CBC)

Warning: story contains disturbing content

The parents of a woman raped and killed by several men on a New Delhi bus in 2012 tell CBC News they have taken legal action after controversial comments from one of the perpetrators in a new documentary came to light this week.

In the documentary India's Daughter, Murkesh Singh says matter-of-factly, "A decent girl wouldn’t roam around at nine o’clock at night," and that in rape, "a girl is far more responsible than a boy."

The documentary aired on BBC Wednesday and will be broadcast on CBC News Network Sunday at 10 p.m. on The Passionate Eye.

In an interview with CBC News's Nahlah Ayed in New Delhi, the father of the victim said he hopes Singh's appeal will be rejected and that the carrying-out of the sentence expedited. The family filed a legal complaint in court on Tuesday.

"[He is] not scared of the law any longer, and that is why he is not just abusing the system but women across the society," Badri Nath Pandey said.

"That is why every single woman should oppose it, and all human rights groups should [ask] the prime minister … not just to come up with ways to ensure women’s safety but also hang him to death."

The 23-year-old woman was returning from a movie theatre with a male companion on a bus when they were both confronted by the gang on Dec. 16, 2012. The man was beaten and the woman raped repeatedly, including with an iron rod.

Asha Devi told CBC News that Murkesh Singh should never have been allowed to repeat his controversial comments in jailhouse interview. (CBC)
Of his victim, who died in the hospital two weeks later, Singh says in the documentary she should not have fought back.

"He has said this in the court also in the past, but making a documentary while he is in the jail — this sort of permission should not be granted," Asha Devi, the victim's mother, told CBC News. "So who made the documentary and why, I can't say about that. But this should not be allowed while he is lodged in the jail."

Murkesh Singh said he was driving the bus and never directly participated in the rape, although that account was rejected in court.

Singh is one of four who face the death penalty in the case. They are each appealing that sentence to India's Supreme Court.

Badri Nath Pandey is unapologetic about wanting to see Murkesh Singh face the death penalty. (CBC)

In the documentary, the victim's parents talk of using money that would normally be saved for a child's marriage to further her education. She was in a medical school and also working in a call centre at the time of the attack.

A fifth suspect in the case committed suicide in jail, while the lone juvenile accused of participating was given a prison sentence.

Singh, who was unemployed at the time, says in the documentary that he doesn't believe he should pay for the crime with his life.

"People have committed bigger crimes, he says, referring to other cases that, along with the Delhi bus rape, sparked thousands to take to the streets in several cities to protest and call for action on violence against women.

The publication of Singh's comments in the documentary this week led to more protests, and government reaction was swift.

Rajnath Singh, India’s interior minister, said the government "would not allow any attempt by any individual, group or organization to leverage such unfortunate incidents for commercial benefits."

He promised an investigation into how the film crew was able to gain access to the prisoner, and the documentary was pulled from a scheduled Sunday airing.

Leslee Udwin, the filmmaker, has urged Indian authorities to reconsider the decision.

The documentary was to have been shown on Sunday, International Women's Day, in India as well as in Britain, Denmark, Sweden and several other countries. Police and the government got a court order that halted the screening, but the BBC aired the documentary in the United Kingdom late Wednesday.

Indian viewers cannot see it on the BBC's website, but it could be seen on YouTube, The Associated Press reported.

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press


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