The special court, conducting day-to-day trial in the December 16 Delhi gang rape case, on Thursday appointed a new lawyer for Mukesh, one of the accused. The move comes after Mukesh’s earlier counsel Manohar Lal Sharma continued to remain absent from court despite repeated warnings, delaying the proceedings of the trial.
“Looking at the fact that ML Sharma, the counsel for accused Mukesh, has not been appearing regularly since trial began being conducted on a day-to-day basis, I feel it appropriate to appoint an amicus curiae to assist the court,” Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna said.
The court appointed advocate Rajeev Jain as the amicus curiae (a lawyer appointed as a friend of the court to assist it) to represent Mukesh during the trial henceforth.
The decision comes a day after the Delhi High Court rapped Sharma for his non-appearance in the trial court and also in the high court where he had filed a petition challenging the FIR against Mukesh and also the day-to-day trial.
Special Public Prosecutor in the case Dayan Krishnan told the high court that prosecution witnesses were being summoned and sent back without being cross-examined. “The trial is slowing down. Nearly 11 witnesses are yet to be cross-examined by the lawyer. He is virtually holding the prosecution and the court to ransom,” Krishnan told the court.
Jain’s appointment by the fast-track court came after Mukesh refused to opt for a lawyer from the Delhi Legal Services Authority. Sharma had arrived ahead of the scheduled time of hearing to inform the court that he would not be present on account of another hearing at Delhi High Court. He was then told by the judge to be present by the time hearing began.
But he failed to do so, prompting the court to appoint a substitute lawyer.