Delhi gang-rape: Accused Mukesh dumps absentee counsel

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) Mukesh, an accused in the Dec 16, 2012 gang-rape, Saturday changed his counsel M.L. Sharma who failed to appear in a fast track court here for the fourth successive hearing.

Advocate Sharma has been replaced by advocate Rajeev Jain, appointed as an amicus curiae to assist the court April 18, after the accused moved an application.

Jain cross-examined prosecution witnesses on behalf of Mukesh.

Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna, before the cross-examination, inquired from Mukesh about his counsel but he had no answer.

“Before putting any questions to this witness on behalf of accused Mukesh, I had inquired from the accused about the whereabouts of his counsel and if he has any specific question to ask to this witness he replies in negative. He was not aware if his counsel would appear today or not.”

The matter was listed Saturday since 10.30 a.m. and “now it is 2.40 p.m., hence, instead of further waiting for M.L. Sharma, counsel for accused Mukesh, and in exercise of powers under section 309 Cr.P.C., with the assistance of Rajeev Jain, advocate, amicus curie, I now proceed with cross-examination of this witness on behalf of accused Mukesh”, the judge said.

“The court and amicus curie had explained to accused Mukesh about the role of this witness and he consented for putting questions to the witness with the assistance of the amicus curie,” the order added.

Mukesh, after a court proceeding earlier in the day, requested Judge Khanna that he wanted to change his counsel and he be allowed to be represented by advocate Rajeev Jain.

Seeking the court’s permission to change his counsel, Mukesh told the court: “I decided to appoint him (Jain) as my counsel when I got to know Sharma has not reached the court today also.”

Judge Khanna accepted the request of Mukesh and appointed Jain as his counsel. Jain will defend the accused as a government-funded lawyer.

The court in its order said: “Mukesh filed an application bearing his signature and thumb impression stating that he intends to change his counsel and wished to engage Rajeev Jain as his counsel.”

“On enquiry, he said that he is moving the application voluntarily. Amicus curie in this case, in view of request of accused Mukesh, may appear on behalf of accused as amicus at state expenses. Hence, M.L. Sharma, advocate stands discharged at the request of accused Mukesh,” the court said.

The judge April 18 after taking into note that counsel Sharma had not been appearing regularly in the daily trial appointed Rajeev Jain as an amicus curiae to assist the court.

The same day, the court asked Mukesh if he wanted a government-funded lawyer from the Delhi Legal Services Authority but he replied in the negative.

Sharma had been facing the court’s wrath for seeking adjournments and remaining absent from trial.

The court dismissed an application filed by co-accused Vinay Sharma to visit the Jhandewalan Temple in central Delhi.

“An application is moved on behalf of accused Vinay to visit Jhandewalan Mata Mandir at Karol Bagh, Delhi. Heard. Such requests cannot be acceded to since it involves the security aspects of the accused, besides the nature of offence. Application dismissed,” the judge said in the order.

A 23-year-old woman was brutally tortured and gang-raped in a moving bus Dec 16, 2012 by five men and a juvenile. The woman later died in a Singapore hospital.

The juvenile is facing proceedings before a Juvenile Justice Board, while the other accused were put up for trial in the fast track court. One of the accused, Ram Singh, is dead.

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