A Delhi court Wednesday expressed anguish over a death row convict in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case and his father for their unwillingness to accept its suggestion to engage a counsel from the legal aid while being without any lawyer of their own, and said they were delaying the matter.
"This is not fair. You cannot delay like this. You are delaying the matter... I am duty bound to give you one (lawyer). Availing or not is up to you. This is a very serious matter. You should have engaged one (lawyer)," Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana said.
The remarks by the judge came when Pawan's father told the court that he had removed his advocate and did not need the government lawyer.
"I will engage a lawyer. Kindly grant me 2-3 days," he told the judge.
Pawan is the only one among the four convicts who has not yet filed a curative petition -- the last legal remedy available to a person which is decided in-chamber.
He also has the option of filing a mercy plea.
The court directed District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to provide Pawan's father with a list of its empanelled advocates to chose from, which was followed, and the matter is listed for hearing on Thursday.
It said that a condemned convict is entitled to legal aid till his last breath.
The court was hearing applications moved by Nirbhaya's parents and the Delhi government, seeking fresh death warrants for the four convicts after the Supreme Court granted liberty to the authorities to approach the trial court for issuance of fresh date for the execution of these convicts.
"'Fiat justitia ruat caelum (let the justice be done though the heavens fall)'. This court is of the considered opinion that any condemned convict is entitled for legal aid till his last breath. Granting the prayer made in the applications under consideration without hearing the counsel for convict would render further hearings in the instant matter an ornamental and superfluous exercise," the judge said.
"However the concern for expeditious Justice expressed by counsel for the victim also needs to be addressed. In view of the same, the list of empanelled advocates on the panel of DLSA is provided to the father/pairokar of the convict Pawan and a copy of the same is also provided to the jail superintendent," he said, adding that Pawan was at liberty to choose any counsel of his choice from the list of the empanelled advocates.
The court was informed by the Tihar jail authorities that they served notices to all the four convicts and their counsel to avail their remaining legal remedies provided under law.
"However, counsel A P Singh, appearing for Pawan, refused to take the notice saying he no longer represents him," the jail authorities, represented by the public prosecutor, told the court.
The judge then enquired from Pawan's father, who was present in the courtroom, and asked whether he wished a legal aid for the convict.
The judge called an officer from the DLSA with the directions to bring the list of lawyers.
At this stage, Nirbhaya's mother broke down before the court, requesting a date of execution.
"I too have some rights," she said.
The court consoled her by saying, "Every lawyer here, this entire proceeding is for giving you the justice."
Nirbhaya's father added that giving lawyer to Pawan at this stage is injustice to the parents.
"Law has given them (convicts) right and not letting them avail that too will be an injustice," the judge replied.
The date of execution, first fixed for January 22 in Tihar jail, was postponed for 6 am on February 1 by a January 17 court order. The trial court later, on January 31 stayed, "till further orders" the execution of the four convicts in the case, who are lodged in Tihar Jail.
The Tihar jail authorities had filed a status report on Tuesday before the trial court stating that no legal option was preferred by any convicts -- Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31) -- in last seven-day period, granted by the Delhi High Court.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known as 'Nirbhaya' (fearless), was gang-raped and savagely assaulted on the night of December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital.
Six people including the four convicts, Ram Singh and a juvenile -- were named as accused.
The trial of the five adult men began in a special fast-track court in March 2013.
Ram Singh, the prime accused, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in Tihar jail days after the trial began.
The juvenile, who was said to be the most brutal of the attackers, was put in a correctional home for three years.
The juvenile was released in 2015 and sent to an undisclosed location amid concerns over a threat to his life. He, when released, was 20 years old.
Mukesh, Vinay, Akshay and Pawan were sentenced to death in September 2013 by the trial court.