The driver of the bus in which a young Indian woman was gang-raped and fatally injured three months ago has been found dead in his prison cell in New Delhi.
Officials say Ram Singh committed suicide but this conclusion has been contested by his family, who claim foul play.
Ram Singh was the main accused of five men and a juvenile. The attack on the 23-year-old physiotherapy student provoked nationwide protests and an intense national debate.
Singh “tied all his clothes together and used the ceiling grille and a wooden stool to hang himself,” jail spokesman Sunil Gupta told AFP. The three other prisoners in Singh’s cell told official they were asleep when Singh was said to have hung himself at around 05:00 local time on Monday morning.
However, defence lawyers and his family question the official version and suspect Singh was murdered.
“He (Singh) wasn’t depressed. It was shocking and also unexplainable. I do not think there was any reason for him to commit suicide,” said lawyer V.K. Anand, who denies official reports that Singh showed mood swings and suicidal tendencies.
According to Singh’s father, Mangelal, his son had been threatened and raped by other prisoners and was too badly injured to be able to hang himself. “He confessed about his mistake, then why would he commit suicide?” he asked. “He was prepared for any punishment the government would have given him. Ram Singh did not commit suicide, he was murdered. He was first murdered and then his clothes were torn off to hang his corpse in his cell,” he added.
It has been suggested by some that the death of Ram Singh may influence the trial of his co-accused. Supreme Court lawyer Ravi Kant said: “The others accused in this case will now take the opportunity to say that Ram Singh was the main conspirator and they were forced into it and as a result they can get lighter punishments.”
The four surviving men, if convicted, could face the death penalty. The juvenile would face three years in a reform facility.