The suspect, Ram Singh, was accused of being the driver of the bus in which a 23-year-old woman was beaten and raped. The woman had severe internal injuries from being sexually assaulted with an iron rod. Mr. Singh was found at 5:45 a.m. hanging from a bedsheet rope suspended from a ceiling grill, jail officials said.

An investigation was under way, the officials said.

“It is a major lapse in security — certainly it is not a small incident,” India’s home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, said at a news conference in New Delhi.

But Mr. Singh’s family members and his lawyer said that he would not have been able to tie a noose, because his right arm had been seriously damaged in a bus accident. In addition, they said, he shared his cell in the Tihar prison complex with several inmates, making it difficult to believe he could have hanged himself without being noticed.

“I suspect there is foul play,” the lawyer, V. K. Anand, said. “There were no circumstances for committing suicide. His mental state was stable, the trial was going well, he was meeting with his family. I can’t understand why he would commit suicide.”

Some family members said Mr. Singh had been abused in jail.

“It is not suicide, he has been hanged by the police,” Mr. Singh’s father, Mangilal, said in an interview. He said that his son had told him on Friday that the police were beating him in jail and that he was being pressured to change his lawyer.

Earlier Monday, the father told the television channel NewsX that Ram Singh had said that other inmates had raped him.

Mr. Singh’s brother Mukesh is one of four other men accused in the case, which is being tried in a special “fast track” court in South Delhi set up for sexual assault cases. The creation of such courts was a direct result of the uproar over the fatal rape in December, as thousands of people across India, long angered by selective law enforcement and endemic corruption, vented their outrage over failures in preventing and prosecuting crimes against women.

A sixth defendant, a teenager, is being tried as a juvenile. The four men face 13 charges, including rape, robbery and murder — which could carry the death penalty.

Ram Singh, whose job was to transport schoolchildren in the bus, which later became the site of the attack, was the first suspect the police apprehended after the attack was reported.

His confession to the police led them to the other suspects.

According to the police charge sheet, a group of drunken men, looking for victims to harass, tricked the young woman and a male friend into getting on the bus, attacked them and then stripped off their clothes and left them on a highway.

Such confessions to the police are not admissible as evidence in India, and Ram Singh had not yet testified in court. The police said that even without his testimony, they had forensic evidence linking the five men and the juvenile to the woman who was killed and to her companion, who was beaten.

Another of Mr. Singh’s brothers — who asked that his name not be used, to shield him from further news media attention — said by telephone that his brother had shown no suicidal tendencies. On Friday, Mr. Singh’s parents visited him in jail, the brother said, and he appeared to be calm.

Mr. Singh’s adopted son visited him last Wednesday, the brother added. “He seemed happy, and even made the little boy sit on his lap and talk to him,” he said. “He has never said or done anything that indicated that he was contemplating suicide.”

Betwa Sharma and Malavika Vyawahare contributed reporting.

Family of India Rape Suspect Says His Death Wasn’t Suicide – New York Times
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