On usual days, the narrow alley leading to the observation home on Mohan Road here has nothing much to write home about. But Tuesday was different.
A battery of cars, including a red-beaconed SUV, parked outside the observation home where Ashiana rape hearing was underway. The corner pan shop hosted 'politically linked' customers all through the day making brisk business.
Several cars, including a redbeaconed SUV, could be seen parked on the roadside right in front of the home.
Inside the premises, which houses the juvenile justice (JJ) courtroom, hearing of the Ashiana rape case of 2005 was underway.
Outside, the clout of the prime accused was on full display. Even before his arrival, nearly half-a-dozen supporters could be seen loitering around. Some smoking, others chewing tobacco and attending phone calls.
As the clock struck 12.28pm, the accused, accompanied by his supporters, strutted into the premises with a battery of lawyers in tow. Within a few minutes, the red-beaconed SUV took a halt near the home's gate and some more supporters came out.
The vehicle remained parked at the spot for nearly two hours while the accused with his group continued to come out for smoking, tea breaks and discussions with lawyers till 4pm. The 'boys' spent at least an hour in a car parked right opposite the gate.
The prime accused claims he was a minor when the rape took place, whereas those on the victim's side claim he was adult. The dispute has been on for nearly seven-and-a-half years.
"Right at the outset, the prime accused was declared a juvenile by the JJ board. However, he was denied bail from the same board and even the sessions court," said Jalaj Gupta, the victim's lawyer.
"Only after the victim's father challenged the accused's age that the session court on April 8, 2010 quashed the old order of the JJ board and demanded fresh hearings on the case. Since then the hearings have been on and we have been fighting to prove the age of the accused," Gupta said, adding the hearing was partly done on Tuesday.
The next hearing of the case has been lined up for Wednesday.
Even while the JJ Act proposes that the juvenility of the accused be decided within one month, the case has been lingering on for nearly eight years now.
To recall, on May 2, 2005, a 13year-old girl was brutally gang raped for over five hours by six spoilt brats in Ashiana area of Lucknow. Since then, the girl's battle for justice is on.
Four accused have been convicted, of which two died in road accidents. The trial of the fifth is in final stage. But, the trial is yet to start for the sixth accused, who is the kin of a mafia-turned-politician of ruling party. The dispute over his age, whether he was a minor or major at the time of the incident, is yet to be decided.
"The case has not yet started. The battle would begin afresh after the JJ board declares its final verdict regarding the age of the prime accused. There is a long way to go," said the father of the victim, who has been attending court hearings all these years.