Two lawyers, representing death row convicts Mukesh and Pawan Kumar Gupta, on Tuesday informed the Delhi high court that they are withdrawing from the December 16 gang rape-cum-murder case on the ground of alleged interference by family members of the convicts.
Appearing for Mukesh, advocate V K Anand informed the bench of justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani that at the instance of certain people, including advocates, the convict's family members are interfering in his work to file the appeal in the case.
"I wanted to withdraw myself from the case as certain people are trying to interfere into my work and the court should discharge me from the work," he said, adding that he has communicated the decision to the brother of Mukesh.
Accepting his submission, the bench said, "We can't interfere with your decision".
Meanwhile, special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan told the bench that advocate Vivek Sharma, who represents convict Pawan, has telephonically informed about his intention to withdraw from the case.
After the submissions of the counsel, the bench said, "In these circumstances we will have to appoint amicus curiae for Mukesh and Pawan".
"Production warrants to be issued for production of Pawan Kumar Gupta and Mukesh before the court tomorrow," the bench said.
Anand volunteered to assist the court in the case as amicus. However, the bench said, "This will be unfair if we will appoint you as amicus in the case."
Two other convicts in the case, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, on Monday filed their joint appeal against the trial court's conviction and sentencing orders of September 10 and 13, respectively. Mukesh and Pawan are yet to file their appeals.
All four of them were convicted and awarded death penalty for raping a 23-year-old victim in a moving bus in south Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012.
The trial court, while awarding capital punishment to the convicts, had observed the case fell in the rarest of rare category as the crime was committed against the "defenceless" girl in a "beastly" and "hair-raising" manner and referred the case to 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. Prime accused Ram Singh, 34, was found dead in his cell in Tihar Jail in March and proceedings against him were subsequently abated.
On August 31, the juvenile accused in the case was convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home.
On December 16 last year, the paramedical student was gang raped on a moving bus in south Delhi after the convicts lured her and her male friend, who was also assaulted, on board the vehicle, which was found to be plying illegally.
The victim's 28-year-old friend suffered fractures in his limbs. The girl succumbed to her injuries on December 29 at a Singapore hospital.
Image: Advocate V K Anand
Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters