The trial of five men charged with the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus began in a closed courtroom yesterday.

Prosecution lawyers made their opening arguments in the special fast-track court, set up just weeks ago to handle sex assault cases.

The brutal attack last month prompted protests across India and opened a national debate about an epidemic of violence against women.

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A government committee has called for a complete overhaul of the way the criminal justice system deals with rape, sexual assaults and crimes against women in general.

The five men on trial – who face a maximum sentence of death by hanging, if convicted – covered their faces with woollen caps as they walked into the courtroom surrounded by armed police.

Two hours later, after proceedings were over, they left with police. A sixth suspect in the case has claimed he is a juvenile.

Police say the victim and a male friend were attacked after boarding a bus home from a cinema.