New Delhi: The judge in a South Delhi court has ordered an 'in-camera' trial for the five men accused of raping and murdering a physiotherapy student on a bus in Delhi. A trial 'in-camera' means it is not open to members of the public and the press cannot report on proceedings in court.
There was drama in the court today after the men were brought to the court complex in Saket in a large police van. Till 2 pm, they had not been brought into the court-room. Proceedings are now expected to start at 2:45 pm after the judge agreed to the public prosecutor's request for an in-camera trial. The public prosecutor had cited a "threat to the under-trials."
The proceedings till then were marred by chaos as lawyers sporadically shouted against an advocate who has volunteered to defend the accused, describing him as a publicity seeker. The Saket Bar Association had said none of its members would defend the man accused of the crime that united India in anger and grief, corroborated by large protests in cities like Delhi.
ML Sharma, a lawyer, said the families of the accused men had approached him to defend them. The judge today said he would not be allowed to meet the accused on the court premises and could go to Tihar Jail to sign the 'vakalatnama' (contract with the lawyer)
The accused are expected be given copies of the chargesheet. Once the defence counsel has been appointed and he goes through the charges, the case can then be shifted to a special fast-track court, that is expected to hold daily hearings.
The police has said it has forensic evidence to establish their guilt. The defendants could face the death penalty if convicted.
A sixth man who was on the bus, who is 17, is to be tried in a separate court for juveniles. The police says he was the most depraved of the group.
Police have pledged 'maximum security' during the hearing at the court amid fears for the defendants' safety. A man was arrested last week as he allegedly tried to plant a crude bomb near the home of one of the men.
On December 16, the student and her boyfriend watched a movie at a South Delhi mall. They then boarded a school bus that was running illegally at night. The driver, according to the police, had decided to go for "a joyride" with his friends. The couple were led to believe the school bus was a private or chartered bus, hundreds of which operate in Delhi to compensate for thin public transport.
Once they boarded the bus, the six men allegedly hit them with an iron rod before taking turns to rape the young woman. The pair were then thrown out of the moving vehicle.
"The blood of the victim tallied with the stains found on the clothes of the accused," said Rajiv Mohan, part of the prosecution team, said on Saturday in court.
(With inputs from agencies)