Three of the five accused in the gang-rape and murder of the 23-year-old girl in a bus will plead not guilty to the charges and claim trial, advocates seeking to represent them said on Tuesday.
Advocate M L Sharma, who appeared in the Metropolitan Magistrate's court on Monday and offered to defend the accused amidst protests from the Saket bar, has been engaged by prime accused Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh Singh and Akshay Kumar Singh alias Thakur.
Another advocate V K Anand, who had also showed up in the court wanting to be an amicus curiae, has also been engaged by the Ram Singh.
"They will plead not guilty to the charges leveled against them in the charge sheet. They want to face the trial," said Sharma and Anand echoed a similar stand.
Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal had on Monday posted the matter for January 10 after ordering that proceedings will be held in camera and media should not report them.
A senior Tihar jail official said the accused were illiterate undertrial prisoners. "Generally in a sensational case, many advocates come forward to represent the accused. Being illiterate and already scared, the accused might have signed even more than two advocates. It is an issue between the advocate and the prisoner," he said.
Sharma claimed that he was approached by the family of the prime accused Ram Singh, Mukesh and Akshay, who have signed him to defend them. Anand maintained he would be defending Ram Singh.
He said he had on Monday also met the accused in Tihar jail but could not get the vakalatnama (authority to represent) signed.
Sharma said, on Tuesday morning, the accused themselves asked him to represent them in the court. He refused to take the case for the other two accused-- Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma-- saying, "Gupta's father had visited him in Tihar. Since one of their relatives is also a practising advocate, he would be representing him."
The five accused, Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh and their accomplices Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur have been charge sheeted for murder, gangrape, attempt to murder, kidnapping, unnatural offences, dacoity, hurting in committing robbery, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and common intention under the Indian Penal Code.
The chargesheet against the sixth accused, who is being proceeded against separately before the Juvenile Justice Board, is yet to be filed.