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Nirbhaya: Court appoints lawyer for convict; to hear plea for fresh death warrant on Monday

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

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, saying the Constitution makes no distinction between a law abiding citizen and a condemned convict in availing legal remedies.

Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana, who will hear the case again on Monday on the pleas seeking fresh death warrants against all the four convicts, appointed the counsel after being informed by Tihar jail authorities that Gupta refused to chose a lawyer offered by Delhi Legal Services Authorities (DLSA).

"In my opinion the right to legal aid flows from Article 21 (no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law) of the Constitution of India which makes no distinction between a law abiding citizen and a condemned convict while protecting life and liberty against any unlawful violation," the jude said.

The court appointed advocate Ravi Qazi, who appeared before court on the instruction of the Secretary, DLSA.

The hearing also witnessed Nirbhaya's parents telling the judge that convicts have played with the patience of the court, and the patience of the society was also being tested and that they were leading a "luxurious life".

"If the convicts have not availed their remedies so far, it should be assumed that they are not going to avail it. Convicts have played with the patience of the court. The court must read the minds of criminals and see how they are frustrating the mandate of the law. The patience of society is being tasted. This court is duty bound to issue the death warrants.

"People's will is getting eroded, bulldozed because of inaction of the system. The convicts are leading luxurious life," said advocate Jitender Kumar Jha, representing Nirbhaya's parents.

The use of term "luxurious life" was opposed by advcoate A P Singh, representing some convicts in the case.

"It is wrong to say convicts are leading luxurious life. Since when jail is luxurious? It's the matter of death warrants. Please do not turn it into jokes," he said.

Qazi, appointed by the court to represent Gupta, said that "law has given remedies we (convicts) have not created. But since they are there, we have every right to avail them".

The court had on Wednesday directed Gupta to pick a counsel from the list of legal aids from the panel of DLSA after being told that he has removed the counsel who was representing him earlier.

It had said that a condemned convict is entitled to legal aid till his last breath.

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.

On Thursday, Tihar jail authorities filed a report intimating the court that a list of impanelled lawyer was provided to Gupta yesterday.

"However, unfortunately Gupta has refused to accept the offer of legal aid and he has replied that he doesn't want any government advocate," they said.

The court then adjourned the matter for Monday, noting that the Supreme Court was seized of matters related to certain aspects of the present case.

"Nobody knows the outcome in Supreme Court. Let's wait for the outcome of Supreme Court judgment. No harm is done if the matter is deferred for a few days," the court said, while adjourning the matter.

It also noted that Qazi would need time to go through the documents related the case.

The court on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the delay in the process from Gupta's side, after convict's father informed it that he had removed his earlier lawyer and would need time to engage a new one.

On court's order, the DLSA then provided Gupta's father with a list of its empanelled advocates to chose from.

The court was hearing applications moved by Nirbhaya's parents and the Delhi government, seeking fresh death warrants for the four convicts -- Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31).

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 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.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 13 2020. 20:40 IST