New Delhi: Even as the five accused reached the court of Metropolitan Magistrate Jyoti Kler in Saket on Monday morning, the controversy over the age of the sixth accused in the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedical students continues. The Juvenile Justice Board will take up the matter of verifying the age of the accused minor who claims to be 17.
The Metropolitan Magistrate will order that a copy of the chargesheet be given to each of the five accused after which the trial will begin in a fast-track court. As Saket court lawyers have decided to not defend the accused, the court is likely to direct that lawyers from legal aid cell be provided to the five accused.
On the other hand the sixth accused, who claims that he is less than 18 years of age, will be presented before a Juvenile Justice Board which has already summoned his school principal to determine his exact age. If the controversy over his age is not resolved then he could be directed to undergo a bone ossification test, which can provide the approximate age of the accused. If the board take the view that the accused is above the age of 18, he could be tried as an adult in the fast-track court.
Reports say that two of the accused have expressed a desire to turn approvers, but the police top brass have not confirmed this yet. Out of four accused, who were produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Jyoti Kler inside her chamber after expiry of their 14-days of judicial remand on Sunday, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma refused to take the service of legal aid counsel and expressed their willingness to become witnesses in the gangrape-cum-murder case reportedly.
Besides the two, Ram Singh and his brother Mukesh who were also produced before the court, have asked for legal aid counsel in the case for their defence. Legal experts feel that an accused cannot hope to become a witness especially in a case of heinous crime like the Delhi gangrape-cum-murder to escape punishment.
Usually in a case where investigators find it difficult to gather evidence, they could ask for an accused to become an approver to get crucial evidence and in return, the accused could get lighter sentence or escape punishment, the experts said.
The magistrate, had on Sunday, extended their judicial remand till January 19, and asked them to appear before the court concerned on January 7 as per the production warrant issued to them after taking cognisance of the chargesheet filed against the accused on January 3.
"All the accused persons were informed that they can seek legal aid in the case, if they have not engaged any counsel. Accused Pawan and Vinay have refused to take service of the legal aid counsel and have submitted that they want to become witnesses on behalf of the state," the magistrate said in the order dictated in the open court room after the accused were sent back to jail.
The court also said, "Accused Ram and Mukesh have not engaged counsel so they want legal aid. They be provided the legal aid counsel. "Let all the four accused persons be produced before the court concerned on January 7."
The magistrate in her order had said, "Accused Pawan and Vinay have been directed to move an appropriate application to become witnesses in the case before the court concerned." The fifth accused arrested in the case Akshay Thakur will also be produced before a court on Monday as he is in judicial custody till January 9. However, the case of sixth accused, a minor, will be heard by a Juvenile Justice Board.
While the accused were produced before the judge in her chamber on Sunday, she dictated the order in open court room and no direction was given by her for prohibiting any media person from publishing or printing the proceedings.
A court had taken cognisance of the chargesheet against five of the accused yesterday under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 376 (2)(g) (gangrape), 377 (unnatural offences), 395 (dacoity), 396 (murder in dacoity), 394 (hurting in dacoity), 201 (destruction of evidence), 120-B (conspiracy), 34 (common intention) and 412 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of the IPC.
The Delhi braveheart, a paramedical student, was brutally raped and assaulted in a moving bus in New Delhi on the night of December 16 and died of her injuries on December 29 in multi-speciality Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.
(With additional information from PTI)