Dec 16 gang-rape: Two death row convicts get new counsel

An advocate informed the Delhi High Court he will represent two death row convicts in the December 16 gangrape, but the court rejected his plea for recusal of one of the judges from the case.

New Delhi: An advocate on Wednesday informed the Delhi High Court he will represent two death row convicts in the December 16 gangrape -- Mukesh and Pawan whose counsel had withdrawn from the case yesterday -- but the court rejected his plea for recusal of one of the judges from the case.

Appearing before the bench of justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani, advocate M L Sharma said he has filed a `vakalatnama` for Mukesh and Pawan and their relatives including Mukesh`s brother Suresh were also present in the court.

The bench recorded the presence of Sharma for Mukesh and Pawan and that of advocate A P Singh, appearing for convicts Vinay and Akshay Thakur as defence counsel in the case.

Sharma told the bench that he should be supplied with paperbook (relevant documents) for both the convicts to file the appeal against the sentence within the stipulated time period of 30 days which expires on October 13.

The court, meanwhile, discharged advocate V K Anand and Vivek Sharma who withdrew themselves from the case yesterday.

Further, it directed the prosecution to supply the documents pertaining to convict Mukesh to Sharma.

Meanwhile, Vivek Sharma handed over to Sharma the paperbook pertaining to convict Pawan.
During the course of hearing, Sharma submitted that Justice Pratibha Rani should recuse from hearing the case as she had dismissed a plea filed by the accused for quashing of the FIR in April.

Reacting to his argument, Justice Pratibha Rani said, "Mr counsel, change of counsel doesn`t mean change of the bench. If you want you can move a petition seeking transfer of the case from this bench.

"There is no question of a bench partner to recuse... Absolutely, there is nothing personal. Unless it is taken away by the Chief Justice, we will not change," the bench said.

Yesterday, Anand had informed the court that he intends to withdraw from the case as the family members of the convicts are interfering in his work to file the appeal, at the instance of certain people, including advocates.

The bench was also informed by special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan that advocate Vivek Sharma, who represents convict Pawan, telephonically informed about his intention to withdraw from the case.

Two other convicts in the case, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, had on Monday filed their joint appeal against the trial court`s conviction and sentencing orders of September 10 and 13, respectively.

All four of them were convicted and awarded death penalty for raping the 23-year-old girl in a moving bus in south Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012.

The trial court, while awarding capital punishment to the convicts, had observed the case fell in the rarest of rare category as the crime was committed against the "defenceless" girl in a "beastly" and "hair-raising" manner and referred the case to high court for confirmation of the sentence.

The trial court has to refer each death penalty case to the high court for confirmation of the punishment.
Prime accused Ram Singh (34) was found dead in his cell in Tihar Jail in March and proceedings against him were subsequently abated.
On August 31, the juvenile accused in the case was convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home.

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