Five men accused of the gang-rape and murder of an Indian student have appeared in court to hear charges against them.

Two of the men have offered evidence possibly in return for a lighter sentence in a case that has provoked widespread anger.

The five men, along with a teenager, are accused of raping the 23-year-old physiotherapy student when she boarded their bus after going to the cinema in New Delhi on 16 December.

She died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

The attack on the student has ignited protests against the government and anger towards the police for their perceived failure to protect women.

It has also provoked a rare national debate about rising violence against women.

Following rowdy scenes in the packed court, magistrate Namrita Aggarwal closed the hearing to the media and the public.

The court was cleared and police were posted at its doors before the accused were brought in.

A police guard said the five men had their faces covered when they entered the court.

The five have already been charged with murder, rape and abduction along with other offences.

Ms Aggarwal said the next hearing would be on 10 January.

She did not say when the case would go to trial in a separate, fast-track court, set up after the attack on the woman.

Earlier, an argument broke out in court when a lawyer offered to defend the men.

He was shouted down by colleagues who said the accused did not deserve representation, given the brutality of the crime.

V K Anand appealed to the court to give the accused men "the right to be defended in court".

He said: "Someone should be appointed and if the court is unable to appoint anyone, then I offer my services to the court. I am a supreme court advocate.

"Hang them by all means - if they are proved guilty. But they should at least be given a fair chance.

"If a fair chance is not given to the accused, it will result in lawlessness and rule of goons. The accused can't be prosecuted simply on the basis of public sentiment."

Members of the bar association in Saket district, where the case is being heard, have vowed not to represent the accused.

Two of the accused, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta, moved an application on Saturday requesting they be made "approvers", or informers, against the other accused, Mukesh Kumar, Ram Singh and Akshay Thakura, public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said.

A sixth suspect, who is 17 years old, is expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.

A prosecutor said last week that a DNA test confirmed that the blood of the victim matched blood stains found on the clothes of all the accused.