Gang-rape case: Court warns defence counsel over absence

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) A fast track Delhi court Tuesday warned advocate M.L. Sharma, defence counsel representing accused Mukesh in the Dec 16, 2012 gang-rape, for his repeated failure to appear in hearings.

Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna said that an “adverse order” could have been passed against him if it had not been this case.

The judge, who has been conducting day-to-day trial, said: “I am not passing an adverse order. Had it been other case, then I would have done it.”

Despite warnings by the court not to delay the process of cross-examination, Sharma has been refusing to cross-examine prosecution witnesses on one ground or other.

The court said: “He (Sharma) must understand. It cannot go on like this.”

The judge said due to something or the other the prosecution witnesses were being sent back from court without being cross-examined on behalf of accused Mukesh.

During the proceedings, a prosecution witness (PW) was cross-examined on behalf of co-accused Akshay.

The court, in its four-page order, said: “Sharma (Mukesh’s counsel) has not appeared as yet. It is to be noted that PW-65 was examined-in-chief on March 28 when his cross-examination was deferred as Sharma was not present, as he was in hospital having low blood pressure.”

“None of his (Sharma) associates who signed the vakalatnama on March 19, was present either on that day. Though the court could have dispensed with the cross-examination of PW-65 on that day itself due to unexplained absence of Sharma, but in the interest of justice one more opportunity was granted,” the judge said.

Sharma replaced advocate V.K. Anand March 20 as Mukesh’s counsel.

Anand had earlier represented Mukesh and his brother Ram Singh, who allegedly committed suicide during judicial custody in Tihar Jail.

The prosecution has been repeatedly raising objections on Sharma’s non-appearence or taking adjournments allegedly for delayng the trial.

Calling the act of Sharma to seek adjournments as “delaying tactic”, Special Public Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan had said that counsel was putting extraordinary pressure to divert the proceedings of the case.

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 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. Accused Ram Singh is dead.

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