|Ram Singh’s lawyer
VK Anand. (PTI)
New Delhi, March 11: Prime accused Ram Singh’s alleged jail suicide won’t affect the fate of the other four adult bus-rape suspects but the defence could delay the trial, legal experts said today.
The overwhelming view was that the testimonies of the 90 witnesses would be scrutinised more closely by the defence as it could try to pin much of the blame on Ram to get the others off lightly.
But most lawyers believe the final outcome will not be affected.
“There will be an effort to put most of the accusations on the main accused. However, in criminal cases such as this, it is not so much what the defence says but what the girl (the victim) and the boy (her male friend) have said in their statements. Their statements will identify the roles played by each of the five accused,” said Supreme Court lawyer Shilpi Jain, who represented the victim in the 2006 rape case in which Bitti Mohanty, son of a former IPS officer, was convicted.
In the Delhi rape, sources said the 23-year-old victim’s statement, made from her hospital bed days before her death, mentioned that Ram hit her friend on the head and that she was dragged to the rear end of the bus by Mukesh, Ram’s brother, and co-accused Akshay Singh.
The paramedic student, the sources said, also identified Ram as the person who had raped her first. It is not clear, however, if she has detailed the roles of the other two accused, gym assistant Vinay Sharma and fruit vendor Pawan Kumar.
The experts were convinced that the victim’s statement was enough to nail the four and said Ram’s death could, at most, delay the case, scheduled to be wrapped up by the fast-track court in three months.
“The other accused will take the line that Ram was murdered (in jail) and that could take up some of the court’s time. They will say he was the prime accused and divert the main accusations towards him. This will also delay the proceedings but eventually not help them as they were part of the conspiracy of rape and murder. The defence, of course, will try everything it can to reduce their sentences,” said Ravi Kant, also a Supreme Court lawyer.
Delhi police echoed the view that today’s death wouldn’t affect the case’s outcome, saying Ram’s interrogation and his court testimony had already been completed.
A statement by the lawyer for brothers Ram and Mukesh fuelled fears of a delay. “I will request that the case be shifted out of Delhi as this (the jail death) proves my clients are not safe here,” V.K. Anand said.
Requests for such relocation, regardless of whether they are granted, could take up the court’s time.
Others agreed that the fallout of Ram’s death would be limited to delays. “The other accused can reap no benefits from Ram’s death. Of course, everything depends on the cross-examination and how the witnesses respond. We have to see how much is proved,” said lawyer Ranbir Sharma, who had defended the four presidential guards convicted of raping a student in Delhi in 2003.