Amid lawyers refusing to represent the accused in the gangrape-cum-murder case of 23-year-old paramedic, two women judges have come out with suggestions for effective fast-tracking of the trial.
While Justice Gyan Sudha Misra, a sitting Supreme Court judge, suggested amendments to the Evidence Act to avoid recording of evidence at multiple stages to "cut-short" the whole process of trial, former Delhi High Court judge, Justice Usha Mehra opined that the trial judge should ensure service of lawyers to accused from the very outset of the trial.
"I feel in such cases of heinous crimes against women, it should be one-to-one between accused and victim as cases of these nature ultimately hinge on evidence collected by police," Justice Misra said.
"Evidence recorded by the police from the accused and the victim's side should be recorded before a judicial officer. Why should the statement of prosecution and defence witnesses be recorded at multiple stages? Let us bring changes to the Indian Evidence Act," she added.
"If the evidence led by the accused and the victim is recorded in front of a judicial officer, why should there be need for a lawyer to record evidence the second time in the court, as it is done today.
"The thing left for courts would be only cross-examination and arguments and that is how fast track courts are also going to be fast. Recording of evidence a second time in the court gives rise to manipulations, witnesses turning hostile and in many cases killing of star witnesses," Justice Misra added.
Justice Mehra, the head of government-appointed one member commission to probe the gangrape case, however, said earlier also, in many cases, the lawyers had refused to represent the accused and they cannot be forced to appear on their behalf but the trial judge has the discretion to provide lawyers to accused either from the legal aid or appoint amicus curiae to defend them.
Justice Mehra said, "If the lawyers have decided not to appear for the accused in this case, we cannot force them.
"This is the time when the sessions judge trying the case will exercise his discretion to either appoint an amicus curiae or ask Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to provide legal aid to the accused."
Condoling the demise of Delhi gangrape victim, Chairman of Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) R S Goswami said though the Council cannot make any rule asking advocates not to represent the accused in this case, it can request them not to appear for the offenders of such a "shameless" act.
"We can only request the advocates not to appear or give legal advice to any of the accused in this gangrape case as we also live in the same society and their crime cannot be justified in any manner," Goswami said.
Arun Rathi, the vice president of Bar Association of Saket court, in whose jurisdiction the gangrape case falls, said "the Saket Bar Association stands by its resolution not to represent the accused in the gangrape of 23-year-old student."
When asked as to what would they do if the accused are provided a counsel from legal aid cell, Rathi said, "We can't go into that. From DLSA whosoever may represent them, but from our side, no counsel will defend them."
Rajiv Khosla, former President of Delhi Bar Association, too adopted similar views and said no advocate from the entire national capital will represent these accused.
"We had discussed it with all the lawyers and none of them will appear for these accused. This is a shameless incident.
"We are part of society and we are not here only to earn money. We also have sisters and daughters and no other crime can be more shameful than this," he said.