The huge crowd that gathered outside the juvenile justice board on Thursday in anticipation of the first verdict in the December 16 gang rape case returned a disappointed lot.
The judge of the board deferred the verdict on the juvenile, labelled the 'most brutal' among all accused, till July 25.
Hundreds of curious onlookers, a large contingent of national and international print and television journalists waited in humid weather for four hours on the road outside. They had been evicted from the air-conditioned courtroom just before the judge arrived at 10am and were informed of the deferment only around 2pm. Only the parents of the victim, lawyers and the public prosecutor were allowed inside the courtroom.
Principal magistrate Geetanjali Goel deferred the verdict after the accused and prosecution submitted certain clarifications. More drama and confusion ensued as three lawyers who emerged out of the courtroom after the proceedings gave different versions to the waiting media.
While one said "the juvenile had been held guilty but pronouncement of the quantum of punishment had been deferred", another lawyer said the "verdict has been pronounced but we have been asked not to reveal it to the media". The third lawyer said the case hearing had been simply deferred till July 25, which turned out to be the truth.
"We came to hear the verdict and it turns out we will have to wait for some more days. We know that the maximum punishment he can get is three years, but we wish he gets a death sentence for the brutality he committed," said the father of the 23-year-old physiotherapist, who had been brutalised by six men that night.
The court concluded the trial, which began in March, against the juvenile on July 5.
The maximum punishment he can be given under the Juvenile Justice Act, if found guilty, is three years at a reformatory home. Among the 18 charges he faces are gang rape, murder, kidnapping, unnatural offences, attempt to murder, dacoity, destruction of evidence and conspiracy.