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Police personnel guide a vehicle carrying the accused in the gang rape and murder case, at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi, yesterday.
New Delhi: A Delhi court yesterday ordered in-camera trial of the December 16 gang-rape following unruly scenes that prevented the accused from being led in. It also told the media not to report any news related to the case without its permission. Metropolitan Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal said: “An unprecedented situation arises when members of bar and public not connected with the case have started converging in the courtroom...”
She said the courtroom was packed and it created a lot of disturbance. Appeals to people to wait outside to let the proceedings go on without disturbance had not been heeded, she added.
According to Aggarwal, the crowds were “occupying every inch of space of the courtroom, even next to the space allotted to the readers and stenographer”.
“It has become impossible to proceed in the case... The lock-up in-charge said he is unable to bring the accused before the court for the want of safe passage in the courtroom.” Invoking the Criminal Procedure Code for in-camera proceedings, the magistrate quoted the public prosecutor as saying that he feared for the safety of the accused.
The prosecution also moved an application for an in-camera trial. Aggarwal conceded the request “keeping in view the situation”.
She added: “The proceedings ... including the inquiry and trial can be held in-camera. Hence, all public persons, and every bar member in the court are directed to vacate the courtroom, except the accused, public prosecutor and investigation officer.”
“I am also invoking 327 (3) CrPc and it shall not be lawful to print and publish any matter in media without court permission.”
Meanwhile, the court took on record the applications filed by some counsel to be appointed as amicus curiae in the case. The court directed them to approach the accused and get their signatures of the accused. The matter has been posted for Thursday. Five of the accused in the gang-rape of a 23-year-old had reached the Saket court premises from the Tihar Jai but could not be presented before the metropolitan magistrate as her room was packed with visitors. Around 40 security personnel also were deployed inside the courtroom.
A controversy has arisen over who will defend the five accused, who are accused of gang-raping and torturing the victim in a moving bus. She died of multiple-organ failure in Singapore on December 29. Earlier, an argument broke out in court when a lawyer offered to defend them. He was shouted down by colleagues who said the accused did not deserve representation, given the brutality of the crime. Public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said he was seeking the death sentence given the “heinous” crime.
“The five accused persons deserve not less than the death penalty,” he said, echoing public sentiment and calls from the victim’s family. Members of the bar association in Saket district, where the case is being heard, have vowed not to represent the accused.
But yesterday, Supreme Court lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma stood up to offer representation to the men. He was booed by other lawyers in the court, where media and advocates had gathered before the men were due to appear. “We are living in a modern society. We all are educated. Every accused, including those in brutal offences like this, has the legal right to represent his or her case to defend themselves,” Sharma said. “I’m afraid they won’t get justice, that’s why I have decided to appear for them in the court,” Sharma said, but added it was for the court to decide.
Police have conducted extensive interrogations and say they have recorded confessions, even though the five have no lawyers.
Legal experts say their lack of representation could give grounds for appeal should they be found guilty. Similar cases have resulted in acquittals years after convictions. Last week, chief justice Altamas Kabir inaugurated six fast-track courts to help reduce a backlog of sex crime cases in Delhi. But some legal experts have warned that previous attempts to fast-track justice in India in some cases led to imperfect convictions that were later challenged.
The men, most of them from a slum neighbourhood, will be offered legal aid by the court before the trial can begin. The sixth member of the gang that lured the student and a male friend into the private bus is under 18 and will be tried in a separate juvenile court. The government is aiming to lower the age teenagers can be tried as an adult, given widespread public anger that the boy will face a maximum three year sentence.IANS/Reuters
New Delhi: The family of the 23-year-old woman who was gang raped in a moving bus, yesterday opposed the request of two of the accused to be state witnesses.
The victim’s brother said over phone from his native village in Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia that as the police have enough evidence in the case, they should not permit any of the accused to turn state witness.
“If the two accused are allowed to become state witnesses, they will get leniency in court. They should be hanged for their heinous crime,” the victim’s brother said.
“The accused moved the plea to escape the death sentence. Their plea must be rejected,” he said. The victim’s father said that there were enough witnesses and there was no need to make any of the accused as witness.
Out of the four accused who were produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Jyoti Kler in Delhi on Sunday after expiry of their 14-day judicial remand, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma refused the services of a legal counsel and expressed their willingness to become witnesses on behalf of the state.
Additional standing counsel Rajiv Nanda said: “Many accused try to be state witnesses to avoid maximum punishment. If the investigating agency has enough proof in the gang rape case, they should not let any of the accused turn witness as it can benefit them.”IANS