Mumbai, Sep 23 (PTI): The sessions court trying the Mumbai photojournalist's gangrape case on Tuesday set a deadline for itself saying it would try to conclude the hearing in 60 days.
”We will try to conclude the case in 60 days,” the court said while adjourning the matter till September 26.
Three accused - Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari - were produced before principal judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi. The fourth accused Siraj Rehman Khan was not produced before the court, which directed that he should also be brought on the next date of hearing.
The fifth accused in the case, who is a minor, has been sent to juvenile remand home.
When the court enquired if the accused had hired their lawyers, Jadhav replied in the negative and agreed to go for a lawyer from the legal-aid panel.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam is also likely to open the case before the court on the next date of hearing.
The young photojournalist was gangraped by the five accused when she had gone to the deserted Shakti Mills compound in central Mumbai on August 22 with a male colleague on assignment. The accused had tied up the victim's male companion with belts and then raped her.
Meanwhile, a magistrate's court today extended the police custody of the Jadhav, Bangali, Ansari and one Mohammed Sheikh till September 27, in another case of gangrape.
An 18-year-old telephone operator had been allegedly gangraped by five men, including Jadhav, Bangali and Ansari, at the Shakti Mills on July 31. The fifth accused in the case is a minor.
Giving an idea of the brutal nature of the crime in the operator gangrape case, the crime branch said in the remand application that before raping the victim the accused had stuffed a cloth in her mouth, then taken her near the bushes (in Shakti Mill) and raped her by turns.
The crime branch told the court today that they have recovered two mobile phones from the accused and they have to recover Rs 2,500 that the accused had stolen from the operator.
”Only one counsel can attend the proceedings to note down the points. You all counsel need not be present in the court.
”It is in the interest of justice that the matter should be heard from tomorrow. Sword is also hanging on their (convicts) heads. It is also in their interest that the court should start hearing the death reference at the earliest,” the bench said.
Meanwhile, Special Public Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan referred to legal provisions and said in the case of death reference, the State should open its case first.
After the proceedings concluded, the onlookers started clicking photographs of the convicts.
The court had yesterday issued production warrants and directed the Tihar Jail authorities to produce before it four death row convicts in the case on the trial court's reference for confirmation of the capital punishment given to them.
On September 13, while awarding capital punishment to Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan and Vinay, the trial court had referred the case to the high court for confirmation of the sentence.
The trial court has to refer each death penalty case to the high court for confirmation of the punishment.
The trial court had granted 30 days' time to the convicts to file their appeal before the high court.
The four were awarded death penalty in the gangrape case by the trial court which said it fell in the rarest of rare category as the crime was committed against the 23-year-old ”defenceless” girl in a “beastly” and “hair-raising” manner.
”Accordingly, the convicts be hanged by neck till they are dead,” the trial court had said, noting that the inhuman and ghastly acts of the convicts shocked the collective conscience of the nation and deserves exemplary punishment.
Prime accused Ram Singh (34) was found dead in a cell in Tihar Jail in March and proceedings against him were abated. On August 31, the juvenile accused was convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformation home.
On December 16 last year, the paramedic student was gangraped in a moving bus in south Delhi after the convicts lured her and her male friend, who was also assaulted, on board the vehicle, which was found to be plying illegally.
The victim's 28-year-old friend suffered fractures in his limbs. The girl succumbed to her injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital.