New Delhi: Expressing anguish over failure of the defence counsel to appear in the December 16 gangrape case, Delhi High Court on Friday said "they are running away from court" and warned it would appoint amicus curiae in their place if they do not appear on Monday for arguments.
"It appears that deliberate attempts were made to stall the hearing of the appeal," the court said and also issued production warrant against all the accused asking the jail authority to produce them in the court on Monday, the next date of hearing.
The court is hearing the final arguments on a day-to-day basis on the trial court`s reference to it for confirmation of death sentence awarded to four convicts- Mukesh, Pawan Kumar Gupta, Vinay and Akshay.
"It`s a very unfortunate situation. We are extremely pained. That is all we can say. You are not discharging your duties. Questions are arising in our mind now that what is the purpose. Defence lawyers are running away from the court. That will not serve the purpose," a bench of justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani said.
The bench took strong objection to the conduct of Mukesh`s counsel ML Sharma who left Delhi without informing the court.
Granting "last opportunity" to all defence counsel- Sharma and advocate Sadashiv Gupta, who recently filed a wakalatnama for accused Pawan, and advocate AP Singh for accused Vinay and Akshay, the court said "in case they will not appear in the court for arguments on next date of hearing, then, the court will appoint amicus curiae for the accused."
The court noted that the lawyers were present in the court till November 7 and did not appear despite an order asking them to start their arguments today after the prosecution concluded its arguments.
After the Special Public Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan completed his arguments by noon, the bench waited for the defence lawyers but no one turned up.
Sharma`s proxy counsel told the court that he was out of station and would be available on Tuesday. To this, the court asked him to file an affidavit giving details of the case for which Sharma was said to be out of Delhi.
When the court re-assembled in the post lunch session, the proxy lawyer filed the affidavit saying Sharma had yesterday left for Mumbai to appear in case before Justice D Y Chandrachud.
The public prosecutor, however, informed the bench that Justice Chandrachud had taken over the charge as Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court on October 31, 2013.
Taking the affidavit on record, noting the conduct of the defence lawyers and also absence of the family members of the accused in the court, the bench said "The counsel for Vinay and Akshay is also not present.
"Not only that even no family member of the accused was present in the court. It appears that deliberate attempts were made to stall the hearing of the appeal."
The 23-year-old woman was brutally gangraped in a moving bus by six people, including a juvenile on December 16 night. The accused then threw her and her male companion out of the bus without their clothes .
The woman died of grave intestinal injuries on December 29 at Singapore`s Mount Elizabeth Hospital, where she was airlifted for specialised treatment.
Meanwhile, Special Public Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan concluded his arguments saying "by giving the maximum sentence the message to the society would be that deviant behavior of extreme kind will not be tolerated."
Krishnan argued that socio-economic status of the convicts cannot be a determinative factor in sentencing in a gang rape coupled with murder.
The trial court had on September 13 awarded death penalty to Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan and Vinay and referred the case to the high court for confirmation of their sentence.
Ram Singh, one of the six accused, was found dead in Tihar jail. A juvenile involved in the crime was August 31 sent by the Juvenile Justice Board to a reform home for three years, the maximum term under the Juvenile Justice Act.