December 16 case: Convicts invoke Mahatma to oppose death penalty

New Delhi, PTI | Updated : 11 November 2013, 11:11 PM

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, two of the convicts on death row for the brutal torture and gang-rape of a 23-year-old paramedical student on December 16 contested the trial court's sentence on Monday, telling the Delhi High Court even the father of the nation was against capital punishment.

Commencing the arguments for convicts Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur before a bench of justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani, advocate A P Singh said awarding "death penalty will not stop crime in society" and the duo don't deserve deterrent punishment in this case. 

Quoting Gandhi who had said "I cannot in all conscience agree to any one being sent to the gallows. God alone can take a life because he alone gives it," Singh argued that death penalty is not the solution to stop crime. 

"Death penalty will kill the criminals but that will not stop the crime in the society," the lawyer said adding that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights...." 

The court is hearing the final arguments on a day-to-day basis on the trial court's reference to it for confirmation of death sentence awarded to four convicts- Mukesh, Pawan Kumar Gupta, Vinay and Akshay as well as their appeals against the trial court's judgement. 

On the night of December 16, last year, the four convicts along with Ram Singh, who died during trial, and a juvenile had gang-raped and brutally tortured the student in a bus after luring her and her 28-year-old male friend, who was also assaulted, on board the vehicle before dumping them by roadside. The girl succumbed to her injuries on December 29, 2012 at a Singapore hospital. 

Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna had held the four accused guilty of gang-rape and "cold blooded" murder of a "defenceless" girl in a premeditated manner. 

Taking the plea of alibi, the lawyer today claimed that his client Vinay was not associated with the incident as he was taking part in a Christmas celebrations that had held in Ravidas colony on the day of incident. 

Video footage is also available and the trial court had ignored this evidence, Singh contended. 

Claiming that Vinay is a minor and is doing his BA from Delhi University (DU) and the trial court had rejected his plea for verification of his age, the counsel said that court should pass an order for ossification test of his client to find out the real age of Vinay. 

About Akshay, the lawyer said that on the date of incident, his client was in a train with his family members and police had falsely implicated both the convicts in the case. 

Vinay, who appeared with other convicts pursuant to the court's earlier order, today alleged that the jail officials had beaten him up in custody and he had suffered a fracture in his arm and injuries on his forehead. 

The bench said that he can give a complaint before the judge, who visits the jail regularly. 

The defence lawyer will continue his argument tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, the court recorded the submission of Special Public Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan that advocate M L Sharma, the counsel for convicts Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, had mislead the court on last date of hearing by claiming that he was away to attend a case in Bombay High Court. 

The prosecutor produced the Bombay high court calender and said the court was on holiday for the whole week, which the bench has taken on record and said "this issue (lawyer's conduct) will be dealt with separately." 

Earlier, the bench had taken strong objection to the conduct of Sharma who left Delhi without informing the court. 

The trial court had on September 13 awarded death penalty to Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan and Vinay and referred the case to the high court for confirmation of their sentence. 

Ram Singh, one of the six accused, was found dead in Tihar jail. The juvenile involved in the crime was on August 31 sent by the Juvenile Justice Board to a reform home for three years, the maximum term under the Juvenile Justice Act. 

First Published: Monday, November 11, 2013 11:10 PM
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