Turmoil took over the pre-trial proceedings of the Delhi gang rape trial on Monday when some lawyers objected to a few advocates coming forward to defend the accused. The disruptions did not die down even after Metropolitan Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal entered the courtroom at 12.30 p.m., when the five accused were to be produced. Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma said the relatives of some of the accused had asked him to represent them, and he was coming forward to do so in the interest of fair trial. Ms. Aggarwal asked him to visit the accused at Tihar Central Jail to get their permission. Another lawyer V.K. Anand then asked the court to appoint him amicus curiae.

At this juncture, Additional Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan renewed an application he had moved earlier, seeking in-camera proceedings. He argued that in rape cases, “in-camera proceedings were the general norm, and open trial was the exception,” and there was apprehension about the safety of the accused.

One lawyer proclaimed: Jab Jantar Mantar se public nahi hadthi, court se vakil kaise hatenge (When the public stay put at Jantar Mantar, how lawyers can leave the court.)

The magistrate then went back to her chamber; by 1.30 p.m., the official lunch-hour for the courts, many of the agitated lawyers had left. Ms. Aggarwal was finally able to come out and dictate her order without interruption.

“An unprecedented situation has been created where members of the Bar and public persons, unconnected with the case, have started converging in the courtroom. The courtroom has been jam-packed and a lot of disturbance created. The persons who have thus assembled and are present inside court, not connected with the case, have been repeatedly asked to wait outside so that the court proceedings can continue, but with no effect. It is a case of the crowd virtually occupying every inch of space in the courtroom even to the extent of standing next to the reader and the stenographer,” the magistrate said.

The in-charge of the Saket court lockup also informed the magistrate that he was unable to produce the accused in the court for want of “safe passage” and space in the courtroom. After the courtroom emptied, the five accused were produced and supplied with copies of the charge sheet. The next hearing is scheduled for January 10.

Meanwhile, two lawyers approached District and Additional Sessions Judge R. K. Gauba against the in-camera proceedings and the curb on reporting. The matter will be heard on January 9 when Mr. Gauba will consider Ms. Aggarwal’s order and the findings of a public prosecutor who is expected to enquire with Mr. Rajiv Mohan what transpired in the magisterial court.

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