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Delhi gang-rape: Accused plea against day-to-day trial dismissed

The girl had died on December 29, 2012 in a Singapore hospital due to the grievous injuries she suffered when she was brutally assaulted by the six accused.

New Delhi: A plea of two accused in the December 16 gang-rape that instead of day-to-day trial, it be held on alternate days, was on Thursday rejected by a special court here which also pulled up their lawyers saying such pleas are made to delay the proceedings.

The order came after accused Mukesh and Akshay Singh withdrew another plea that they be provided with the Hindi translation of statements of witnesses recorded so far by Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna in the case.

"Even the prayer that the trial be conducted on alternate days or that the matter be adjourned every time for different dates to enable the counsel to seek instructions from his accused to cross-examine the witnesses, cannot be allowed, as per section 309 (power to postpone or adjourn proceedings) of CrPC," the court said.

It, however, made it clear that neither the police nor the court intends to come in between the counsel and his clients.

"The court does not intend to come in between the counsel and his client to enable him to seek instructions, hence it would be appropriate if the accused are brought to the lock up at Saket at 11 AM everyday, so that the counsel, if they intend to have a legal meeting with them for seeking instructions, can do so....," it said.

During the proceedings, the judge got annoyed over the absence of M L Sharma, the counsel for Mukesh and Akshay.

"From last one week, he is not cross-examining the prosecution witnesses. If he does not want to proceed on his part, we will have to move forward. This is delaying tactics.

"Should I refer the matter to (DLSA) Delhi Legal Services Authority to provide counsel to the accused in the case," the judge said during the hearing.

Special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan also opposed Sharma`s absence in the court and said a last opportunity be given to him.

"If he (Sharma) does not come on time from Monday then the court must proceed in the case without him," he said.

The judge, who has so far recorded statements of 65 witnesses, said that earlier the trial was going on smoothly.

"This is something, which is very wrong. You (defence lawyers) explain to your colleagues that stalling the proceedings without any reason is very, very wrong," the judge said.

Referring to the CrPC provision, the court, in its order, said that if a witness is present, but "a party or his pleader is not present or the party`s pleader though present in court, is not ready to examine or cross-examine the witness, the court may, if it thinks fit, record the statement of the witness and pass such orders as it thinks fit dispensing with the examination in chief or cross-examination of the witness, as the case may be.

"... Further, section 309 of CrPC does not say that the cases ought to be fixed on alternate days only to enable the counsel to have meetings with the accused."

The court said neither Sharma nor other defence lawyers of other co-accused were present.

"The telephonic conversations should stop. The counsel concerned or their juniors should be present personally and inform the court in advance," the judge said.

Meanwhile, the prison authorities told the court that they would ensure that accused Vinay Sharma gets requisite facilities in jail to prepare for his tests for recruitment of group `C` civilian lower divisional clerks in Air Force.

The accused, in his plea, had said that he be provided "proper tuitions and books" inside Tihar jail.

Initially five adult accused in the case were facing trial for allegedly gang-raping and assaulting a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus here on the night of December 16, 2012.

With the proceedings against the main accused Ram Singh having abated after his death on March 11, the remaining four adult accused Mukesh, Vinay, Akshay and Pawan Gupta are facing trial in the case for rape and murder of the girl.

The sixth accused in the case is a juvenile, who is facing proceedings before the Juvenile Justice Board.

The girl had died on December 29, 2012 in a Singapore hospital due to the grievous injuries she suffered when she was brutally assaulted by the six accused.