The Supreme Court, in a first, will sit beyond its working hours from next week to hear appeals filed by four convicts awarded death for raping and murdering a 23-year-old paramedic in Delhi on December 16, 2012.
A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra fixed July 18 to start hearing the appeals against the death sentence. It said the hearings will take place every Monday and Friday from 2 pm to 6 pm, though the court’s working hours end at 4 pm.
The decision came after senior advocate Sanjay Hedge, who was asked by the court to defend two accused, requested the bench for having non-stop day-long hearings so that verdict was delivered in time. He said it was not prudent to have piecemeal hearing.
Hedge’s suggestion was accepted by the bench because the three judges hearing the appeals do not sit together on a regular basis. The bench assembles only after the Chief Justice of India constitutes it, for which there is no fixed time frame. Hedge felt it will be appropriate for the bench itself to give a date and time.
Justice Misra had in an unprecedented move held an overnight hearing of Mumbai blasts case death convict Yakub Memon in July last year.
On the last hearing, Justice Misra’s bench had told Hedge and senior advocate Raju Ramachandran to assist the court because the lawyer the accused hired were unable to argue well.
Ramachandran will argue for Mukesh (29) and Pawan Gupta (22) while Hegde will represent Vinay Sharma (23) and Akshay Thakur (31).
“We are not satisfied by the quality of defence counsel,” the bench said, dictating the order.
Ramachandran had defend Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The top court had held Kasab guilty and sentenced him to death. It had appreciated Ramachandran’s assistance in the case for which the senior counsel did not charge money. Even in the gangrape case the two lawyers will not be paid by their clients. The SC’s legal aid will remunerate them, if they accept it.
The SC had on April 4 began final hearing the convicts’ appeal almost two years after staying their execution in the case.
The trial court had in September 2013 awarded death sentence to the convicts. Six months later, the Delhi high court upheld their conviction and sentence. All the convicts moved the SC in 2014, which stayed their execution.
Six persons including a juvenile had assaulted the woman in a moving bus in South Delhi. Later, the accused threw out the victim and her male friend at an isolated spot. She died in a Singapore hospital on December 29, 2012, triggering nationwide protests.