Nirbhaya Case (Photo Credit: PTI)
A Delhi court Thursday appointed an advocate to represent Pawan Gupta, one of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, after he refused to take a lawyer offered by DLSA as legal aid. Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana then adjourned for Monday the hearing on the pleas seeking fresh warrants against the convicts. The court had on Wednesday offered a counsel to Gupta and expressed displeasure over the delay in the process from his side.
Gupta said he had removed his earlier lawyer and would need time to engage a new one. The District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) had provided Gupta’s father with a list of its empanelled advocates to chose from. Tihar Jail authorities informed the court that he refused to take a lawyer offered by DLSA. Gupta is the only one among the four convicts who has not yet filed a curative petition—the last legal remedy available to a person, which is decided in-chamber. He also has the option of filing a mercy plea.
The court was hearing applications moved by Nirbhaya’s parents and the Delhi government, seeking fresh death warrants for the four convicts after the Supreme Court granted liberty to the authorities to approach the trial court for issuance of fresh date for the execution of these convicts. The trial court had Wednesday expressed anguish over the delay in hearing of the applications moved by Nirbhaya’s parents and the Delhi government.
The court had directed DLSA to provide Pawan’s father with a list of its empanelled advocates to chose from, which was followed. It had said that a condemned convict is entitled to legal aid till his last breath. “Fiat justitia ruat caelum (let the justice be done though the heavens fall)’. This court is of the considered opinion that any condemned convict is entitled for legal aid till his last breath. Granting the prayer made in the applications under consideration without hearing the counsel for convict would render further hearings in the instant matter an ornamental and superfluous exercise,” the judge had said.
The date of execution, first fixed for January 22 in Tihar jail, was postponed for 6 am on February 1 by a January 17 court order. The trial court later, on January 31 stayed, “till further orders” the execution of the four convicts in the case, who are lodged in Tihar Jail.
The Tihar jail authorities had filed a status report on Tuesday before the trial court stating that no legal option was preferred by any convicts—Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31) -- in last seven-day period, granted by the Delhi High Court.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known as ‘Nirbhaya’ (fearless), was gang-raped and savagely assaulted on the night of December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital.
Six people including the four convicts, Ram Singh and a juvenile—were named as accused. The trial of the five adult men began in a special fast-track court in March 2013. Ram Singh, the prime accused, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in Tihar jail days after the trial began. The juvenile, who was said to be the most brutal of the attackers, was put in a correctional home for three years.
The juvenile was released in 2015 and sent to an undisclosed location amid concerns over a threat to his life. He, when released, was 20 years old. Mukesh, Vinay, Akshay and Pawan were sentenced to death in September 2013 by the trial court.