NEW DELHI - One of the six charged in the fatal gang-rape of a 23-old-student in a bus in New Delhi asked the Supreme Court on Saturday to shift the trial from the capital, saying a fair hearing was impossible.
Feelings are still running high in India over the brutal attack in mid-December that ignited violent street protests over the lack of safety for women and sparked impassioned calls for harsher laws to tackle rape.
"The sentiment has gone into the root of each home in Delhi by which even the judicial officers and state are not spared," said the petition filed by lawyer M.L. Sharma on behalf of defendant Mukesh Singh.
"In these circumstances, he cannot get justice in Delhi at all," the petition said.
However lawyers said that the application was not expected to disrupt the opening, set for Monday, of the high-profile trial where prosecutors plan to push for the death penalty over the killing of the physiotherapy student.
Five men - aged between 19 and 35 - face murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and other charges in the trial. The case against a sixth suspect, who claims he is 17, will be heard by a juvenile court if it is confirmed he is a minor.
Earlier this week, an Indian magistrate ordered the trial to be held in a special fast-track court to avoid delays that plague India's clogged justice system.
One of the defence team told AFP, under the condition of anonymity, that they planned to make a representation to the Supreme Court on Monday in connection with the petition to have the trial shifted.
But he said it would likely take at least a week for the Supreme Court to consider Singh's plea if it agreed to hear it.
Defence lawyers say they will enter not-guilty pleas and accuse police of torturing the defendants to get them to make false confessions.
But prosecutors say they have DNA evidence linking the defendants to the attack in which the student and her 28-year-old male companion were assaulted on a bus as they were returning home from a movie.
The prosecutors also have the victim's hospital-bed declaration before her death and testimony from her companion who is recovering from a fracture and other injuries suffered while trying to fend off the attackers.
The woman suffered massive intestinal injuries during the assault on December 16 in which she was attacked with an iron bar.
She died 13 days later after the Indian government in a last ditch-bid to save her life airlifted her to a top Singapore hospital.