The Delhi high court on Wednesday allowed an Uber cab driver accused of rape to re-examine the alleged victim and 12 prosecution witnesses, saying the move was necessary to ensure a free trial.
The order came as the trial court was close to wrapping up its hearing in the alleged December rape of a 25-year-old executive, potentially delaying a verdict in the sensational case that caused global outrage and forced US-based cab aggregator Uber off the streets of the Capital.
Accused Shiv Kumar Yadav’s lawyer DK Mishra had alleged the previous self-appointed defence lawyer was a “novice” and had not conducted the trial properly due to lack of experience, asking for 28 prosecution witnesses to be recalled.
The prosecution had countered, saying the ability of a lawyer was “subjective” and that one couldn’t lose sight of the fact that the advocate had been appointed by the petitioner of his own choice.
The 32-year-old driver has multiple charges of sexual assault against him and was arrested two days after the case that reignited debate over the safety of women and growing sexual violence against them.
Yadav’s application was rejected in the trial court that was close to pronouncing a verdict, almost a month after proceedings began, with only the final arguments of the defence left.
The high court, however, said the recall of certain witnesses was proper for ensuring fair trial but didn’t grant the request of recalling all prosecution witnesses.
“It is the duty of the court to ensure fairness is not hampered in any manner and fair trial includes the grant of fair and proper opportunity to the person concerned. The same must be ensured as this is a constitutional and a human right, which cannot be jeopardised under any circumstance, as such, in the interest of justice,” said justice Sunita Gupta.
The high court allowed Yadav to cross-examine the victim along with 12 other witnesses, including the doctor who had attended to the victim after the alleged rape.
The defence was instructed to not to repeat any question already put by the earlier counsel and seek no adjournments. The court also noted any delay on the part of the accused would only cause him to suffer as he was the one in custody. “In case he adopts delaying tactics, it is only he who would suffer,” said the judge.
The court further clarified that the case would continue to be heard on a daily basis. And it added that “in case for any reason any witness is not available for the purpose of further cross examination, his/her testimony shall be read in evidence as it is.”