Unless Ram Singh has left a suicide note or homicide is proven, say experts

With Ram Singh’s death, the trial proceedings against him in the December 16 gang-rape and murder case, which was progressing briskly at a special fast-track court here, will abate. However, the trial against the four other accused men will proceed. Experts said that Ram Singh’s death would not hamper the trial -- unless he has left a suicide note or homicide is proven -- though the manner of his death raises questions of the criminal justice delivery system.

As on date, 45 prosecution witnesses have been examined during the trial. The prosecution has listed a total of 80 witnesses in the case. A majority of the witnesses are police officers who will have to prove that that they were present when the arrests of the accused persons were made and when the recoveries of various items connected to the case were effected.

On December 17 last, Ram Singh was allegedly seated inside the chartered bus – in which the gang-rape took place -- parked close to his residence in Ravi Dass Camp in R. K. Puram when the police tracked him down. According to the police, he had made attempts to destroy evidence by cleaning the bus. However, confronted with the bloodstains on his torn T-shirt and slippers he purportedly confessed to his involvement and disclosed names of the other five accused, including the one who was later declared a juvenile.

Based on his alleged disclosers, the police made the subsequent arrests and crucial recoveries. At his instance, they claimed to have recovered vital evidence including two bloodstained iron rods from the bus cabin which were used to brutally assault the gang-rape victim and her male friend. They also purportedly recovered the articles like the victim’s debit card, a mobile phone, its SIM card and a wristwatch and also identified the place where clothes of the victims were burnt.

Senior advocate Rebecca John said that the recoveries and the arrests that were made based on the disclosures purportedly made by Ram Singh will not be hampered by his death. “The onus on proving the evidence recovered lies with the police officers who made the recoveries and arrests. The prosecution will have proven their case if they establish the culpability of the other accused persons in the crime. For purpose of reconstruction of the case and proving evidence, his absence will not hamper the trial,” she said.

However, Ms. John said that Ram Singh’s alleged suicide was a setback to activists who were seeking an overhaul of the criminal justice system in the aftermath of the gruesome gang-rape. “While we were all demanding strict punishment for the accused persons, we also harped on the importance of a fair trial as a right of all accused persons. His death, while in judicial custody and in the protection of the court and State, poses a question on whether justice was seen to be done.”

A public prosecutor said the only way in which the trial could be impacted was if the inquest finds Ram Singh’s death to be a homicide or he has left any suicide note. “Then this will raise the question of an external person or agency trying to do away with the accused person or trying to interfere with the trial. But as of now, with all the prosecution witnesses intact, the trial’s sanctity is intact,” the prosecutor said.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the other accused persons said they would press for tightening security for their clients. A. P. Singh, advocate for accused Akshay Singh and Vinay Sharma, said all the accused persons had complained of abuse and torture at Tihar Jail but this was not taken seriously by any one. Both V. K. Anand, who represented Ram Singh and his brother Mukesh, and A. P. Singh, said that Mukesh, Akshay and Vinay were shaken by Ram Singh’s death and were very scared and worried. “Akshay told me he does not want to die this way. He said he was scared of facing brutality in jail,” A. P. Singh said.

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