New Delhi । Observing that any condemned convict is entitled to avail legal aid till his last breath, a Delhi court gave a death-row convict in Nirbhaya rape and murder case liberty to choose his own counsel after his lawyer refused to represent him in the matter.
During the hearing on issuance of fresh death warrant, Advocate AP Singh apprised the court that he no longer represents convict Pawan Gupta in the case.
The case pertains to the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in the national capital in December 2012.
Out of the four convicts, Pawan is the only one who has not yet availed of the remedy of either curative or mercy petitions, which will be the last judicial and constitutional resort available to him.
Victim’s parents and the Delhi government had moved the application on Tuesday demanding a new date for their hanging but in view of the fresh turn of events, Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana adjourned the matter till Thursday.
‘Let the justice be done even though heaven falls. The court reserves an opinion that any condemned convict is entitled legal aid till his last breath,’ the judge stated.
He gave Pawan the ‘liberty to choose’ his counsel from the list of empanelled advocates of the Delhi State Legal Service Authority.
‘Granting the prayer made into the application without hearing the counsel of convict would render further hearing in the matter as ornamental and superfluous,’ the court observed. The matter will now be heard on February 13 at 3 PM.
The court further observed that adequate time should be given to Pawan to choose his counsel and also to the lawyer to study the case.
‘In order to avoid any delay, A.P. Singh must provide the file of convict Pawan so that the learned counsel to be assigned to him is in a position to represent him in the court tomorrow,’ Judge Dharmendra Rana said.
During the course of proceedings, lawyers representing Nirbhaya’s family, said that the convicts are adopting ‘all kinds of delay tactics to avoid execution of death warrant’.
It was further argued that the move was another ploy to derail the proceedings.
Nirbhaya’s mother, Asha Devi, broke down in the courtroom and pleaded with folded hands in front of the judge saying she has been seeking a date of hanging of the four convicts for years now.
Speaking to new agency IANS, AP Singh said that he dropped Pawan from the case as ‘he is not doing any charity’. ‘I am a professional lawyer and till the time my finances are cleared, I have no problem,’ he said.
Slamming Singh for the remarks, advocate Seema Kushwaha, representing the family, said that he is merely manipulating the law and it is one of their delay tactics.