Court mulls age of Indian gang-rape accused

NEW DELHI - An Indian school principal said Tuesday he had presented admission records to a juvenile court which is trying to determine the age of the youngest defendant charged over a fatal gang-rape in New Delhi.

While five adult defendants could be sentenced to death if convicted of the attack on a bus in New Delhi on December 16, the youth would only have to serve three years in a reform facility - provided the court deems he is under 18.

Unlike the five adult defendants, the youngest accused has only been charged with gang-rape and robbery and not murder.

The accused, who cannot legally be identified, says he is 17 but prosecutors are challenging his claim and have ordered tests on his bone marrow.

Speaking to AFP outside the court, the head teacher at his school said he had been given records by the teenager's parents which showed him to be 17.

"According to my records he was born in 1995," said Shishupal Singh.

"During the admission the boy had come with his parents... they did not furnish a birth certificate so I just wrote the age mentioned by them," he added.

Singh said the teenager was no longer officially registered as a student at the school in the Badaun district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

"The boy studied for three years in my school but after the second grade, he stopped coming to the school, so we deleted his name."

Figuring out the defendant's age could be complicated as he does not have a birth certificate - a common occurrence in rural India, where many children are born at home.

School records are often used as proof of name and age but are not definitive.

The teenager had been expected to attend Tuesday's session but court sources said he was not produced before the court.

A wide-ranging gagging order has been imposed on media reporting of the case.

The gang-rape of the 23-year-old medical student, who died on December 29 in a Singapore hospital from intestinal injuries, triggered mass protests in India.

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