The Delhi High Court will hear on a day-to-day basis from Wednesday the death penalty reference against the four convicts in the December 16 gangrape and murder case of a 23-year-old girl.
A bench of Justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani, after recording the appearances of convicts Mukesh (26), Akshay Thakur (28), Pawan Gupta (19) and Vinay Sharma (20) on Tuesday said, “Let us hear the death reference from tomorrow on a day-to-day basis. Meanwhile, you (convicts) file the appeal.”
The court also rejected the contention of the convicts’ counsel, who were opposing early hearing of the reference, saying, “Let us start from tomorrow hearing of the background of the case. The State will open the case and in the meantime you can file your appeal.”
The four convicts were produced before the bench in the presence of a strong police posse in the wake of production warrants issued by the court.
The four were brought to a jam-packed courtroom even as hundreds of people, including litigants, court staff and other employees, were seen waiting outside.
When the convicts were being brought to the courtroom by the police personnel, a group of women started shouting that they be allowed to beat the four offenders. The police stopped the women and others from entering the courtroom.
During the hearing, advocate V. K. Anand, representing convict Mukesh, told the court that he will file an appeal within the stipulated time (30 days) give by the trial court.
He said the court should hear the reference along with the appeal of the convicts.
Advocate Vivek Sharma, appearing for Pawan, also made a similar request to the bench, saying the court should hear the matter at least after one week.
Counsel A. P. Singh submitted that he will appear for convicts Akshay and Vinay.
The bench, however, declined their request, saying, “We will not dispose of the reference till you file your appeal, but nothing prevents us from hearing the background of the case. We were told that there are four bags of documents and the State can open the case from tomorrow.”
“Only one counsel can attend the proceedings to note down the points. You all counsel need not be present in the court. It is in the interest of justice that the matter should be heard from tomorrow. Sword is also hanging on their (convicts) heads. It is also in their interest that the court should start hearing the death reference at the earliest,” the bench said.
Meanwhile, Special Public Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan referred to legal provisions and said in the case of death reference, the State should open its case first.
The court had on Monday issued production warrants and directed the Tihar Jail authorities to produce before it four death row convicts in the case on the trial court’s reference for confirmation of the capital punishment given to them.
On September 13, while awarding capital punishment to Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan and Vinay, the trial court had referred the case to the High Court for confirmation of the sentence.
The trial court has to refer each death penalty case to the High Court for confirmation of the punishment.