NEW DELHI - A New Delhi court is scheduled on Saturday to hand down the first and long-delayed verdict on one of the suspects tried over the fatal gang-rape of a student, which sparked outrage in India.
A juvenile court has delayed releasing its verdict four times since wrapping up the case against the teenager charged over the savage attack on a moving bus on December 16.
The Supreme Court this month cleared the way for the principal magistrate to deliver a verdict, ruling that she could disregard a legal challenge cited as the main reason for the delay.
But given the number of delays so far, lawyers involved in the case said they were hopeful rather than confident of finally hearing a decision.
"Hopefully, the verdict will be delivered this time," Mr Rajesh Tiwari, lawyer for the juvenile, told AFP.
Six men were initially arrested over the crime in which the 23-year-old student was raped and assaulted with an iron bar.
Her male companion was also allegedly beaten up before both were thrown from the bus. The student died two weeks later from internal injuries inflicted during the attack.
The attack sparked street protests over India's failure to protect women from violence and led to parliament passing a tougher law against sex crime.
The gang-rape of a 22-year-old photographer in the financial hub of Mumbai this month rekindled anger over the safety of women in India.
If found guilty, the juvenile, who was 17 at the time of the crime, can be sent to a correctional facility for a maximum three-year term. This includes the time he has already spent in custody while waiting for a verdict.
The trial of four adult suspects continues but is expected to wrap up in the next few weeks, with the men facing a possible death sentence if convicted.
The fifth adult died in jail in an apparent suicide.
The juvenile, the youngest of six children, according to his mother, was employed to clean the bus allegedly used for the attack and often slept rough or inside the vehicle, reports say.
He reportedly left home aged 11 to live in Delhi where he took up a series of menial jobs until landing the work of cleaning the bus.
The parents of the victim have called for their daughter's attackers to be hanged. They have criticised what they view as the leniency of the juvenile justice system, which seeks to reform rather than punish criminals aged under 18.