SC appoints two senior lawyers to defend Dec 16 gang rape convicts

The Supreme Court on Friday asked two senior advocates to defend four death row convicts in the December 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic in New Delhi.

Raju Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde were told to assist a special bench as the court felt that the lawyers hired by the convicts were unable to argue well.

The incident had led to street protests by activists demanding effective safety measures for women, forcing to government to bring in stringent laws against sexual assault and harassment.

A bench of justices Dipak Misra, V Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph said Ramachandran will argue for Mukesh (29) and Pawan Gupta (22) and Hegde will represent Vinay Sharma (23) and Akshay Thakur (31).

“We are not satisfied by the quality of defence counsel,” the bench said. The case will be heard on July 18.

Ramachandran had defended Pakistani Ajmal Kasab for his role in the Mumbai attacks. The top court had held Kasab guilty and sentenced him to death.

It had appreciated Ramachandran’s assistance in the case for which the senior counsel did not charge money.

Even in the gang rape case the two lawyers will not be paid by their clients. The SC’s legal aid will remunerate them, if they accept it.

The SC on April 4 began the final hearing of the convicts’ appeal, almost two years after staying their execution in the case.

In September, 2013, the trial court awarded death sentence to the convicts and six months later, the Delhi high court upheld their conviction and sentence. All the convicts moved the SC in 2014, which stayed their execution.

Six persons including a juvenile had raped the 23-year-old paramedic in a moving bus in South Delhi on December 16, 2012. Later, the accused threw out the victim and her male friend at an isolated spot. She died in a Singapore hospital on December 29.

The juvenile convict, who turned adult this year, was released from a correctional facility after serving a three-year sentence. Another accused in the case, Ram Singh, was found dead in Tihar Jail and the trial against him abated.

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