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Delhi gangrape: Lawyers come to blows, court orders in-camera trial

Amid protests by lawyers, a district court hearing the Delhi gangrape case on Monday directed the media and the public to leave the courtroom, ordering in-camera proceedings in case.

Describing the situation in the courtroom as ‘unprecedented’, metropolitan magistrate Namrita Aggarwal ordered that further printing and publishing of information without the permission of the court would “not be lawful”.

Strongly objecting to the overcrowding of the courtroom, the judge said, “The courtroom has become jam-packed with a lot of disturbances created from different nooks and corners. The persons assembled and present inside the courtroom not connected with the case have been repeatedly asked to wait outside with no effect.”

Protests over the Delhi rape. AFP.

The judge went on to add that it had “become impossible for the court proceedings to carry on".

The judge said that the accused had been brought from Tihar Jail to be produced before the court but had been informed by the lock-up in charge that given the crowd inside the courtroom he was “unable to bring the accused for want of safe passage.”

The judge said that the public prosecutor had also expressed “apprehensions regarding safety of under-trial prisoners”.

Granting the public prosecutor’s request to initiate in-camera proceedings in the case, the judge said: “All public persons and everybody present in the courtroom except the accused and the public prosecutor is directed to vacate the courtroom. I’m also invoking 327(2)(iii) of the criminal procedure code (Cr PC) under which it shall not be lawful to print or publish any matter except with permission of the court.”

The order was passed by the judge in the post-lunch session after a ruckus set off by an emotionally-charged group of lawyers prevented the scheduled appearance of the five accused at 12.30 pm in open court.

The commotion began when a lawyer began a tirade against another lawyer M L Sharma who said he was approached by the family of one of the accused to represent them. He was also shouted at by women lawyers who had gathered in the courtroom.

Appeals by the Delhi Police refused to calm the lawyers down and the commotion continued even after the judge arrived at 12.30 pm.

The judge’s warning that she would not call the accused to appear before the court till the lawyers cleared the way for the accused went unheeded to. Meanwhile, two lawyers told the judge that they wanted to represent the accused and were directed by her to first meet the accused in Tihar Jail and get their consent before approaching the court again.

The commotion in courtroom, however, continued and the judge went back to her chamber.  When she returned at 2 pm, it was to pass the order invoking in-camera proceedings.

In the intervening time, another heated argument broke out between two lawyers, who came close to blows before the police and other lawyers  intervened.

On a day when the five accused were to be produced before the court, security in the Saket court complex had been tightened. There was heavy deployment of security personnel in and around the courtroom as well.

After the initial commotion, about ten women CRPF personnel were brought inside courtroom, where already close to a dozen Delhi Police personnel had been stationed.

The order passed by the judge invoking in-camera proceedings and barring the media from covering the proceedings was immediately challenged by two lawyers. Advocates D K Misra and Poonam Kaushik – who described the order as being tantamount to ‘gagging the media’ - appealed to the District Judge of the Saket Court to “revoke and set aside” the order of the magistrate.

According to PTI, the District Judge in response to the petition has issued notice to the Delhi Police and will hear case on January 9.  Meanwhile, the five accused were produced before the metropolitan magistrate in-camera and were given copies of the charge-sheet. Next hearing in the case will be on January 10.