In a significant development in the sensational Uber rape case, the Supreme Court today set aside the March 4 order of the Delhi High Court which permitted the accused cab driver Shiv Kumar Yadav to re-examine 12 prosecution witnesses, including the victim girl.
Allowing separate petitions filed by the victim and the Delhi Police challenging the high court order, a bench of justice J S Khehar and justice Adarsh Kumar Goel was of the view that the entire exercise would only lead to further humiliation of the victim, delay the trial resulting in abuse judicial process.
The court also lifted the stay on the proceedings at the sessions court and directed the trial court to expeditiously complete the trial.
As per the charge sheet filed by Delhi Police, the incident took place on the night of December 7 last year when the 25 year old victim, who was working for a finance company in Gurgaon, was headed back home from a dinner party. She had taken the Uber taxi from Vasant Vihar to go to her house in Inderlok and the accused after taking another route, raped her
“We see no valid ground to recall the victim and other witnesses. The counsel for the accused had already been given opportunity in accordance with the law to examine them”, ruled the bench.
It is to be noted that the accused had approached the High Court seeking re-examination of the witnesses at a time when the trial had entered its last leg.
The trial in the case had commenced on January 15 and the prosecution had concluded recording its evidence in 17 days by examining 28 witnesses.
The accused had not examined any witness in his defence. The court had also recorded the testimony of the accused in which he termed the charge against him as "false".
The court on January 13 had framed charges against Yadav under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for alleged offences of endangering a woman's life while raping her, kidnapping with an intent to compel her for marriage, criminally intimidating and causing hurt.
Earlier during the hearing Justice Khehar had observed that “I don’t think you had any relevant question for re-examination you just embarrassed her for three days when she was called by the trial court for re-examination…except for humiliating her you did nothing on those days”.
The victim’s lawyer had termed as “totally wrong” the conclusion of the High Court that it is the accused alone who stands to suffer on account of the delay and had told the court that “it is the victim who suffers the most for having to go through a trial virtually from the beginning all over again”The bench totally agreed with the view of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for the Delhi Police that the accused was involved in delay tactics.
“The accused is not a novice to Court. He has been charged with similar offence before. Accused was familiar with court process. He knows which counsel to engage; gave up legal aid counsel, chose another lawyer…all to prolong the trial”, Rohatgi had told the court.
Both the bench and AG had ripped apart the accused’s lawyer when he told the court that “My defence is that in order to file a suit against Uber in USA, this case was planted”.
“Don’t play fool with us. We are used to counsel. We are used with the jugglery of words, it said and asked the counsel for accused to show one good ground for recall of witnesses including the girl in which he miserably failed.Questioning the plea of the accused that he was rightly allowed by the High Court to recall the witnesses, the bench said the accused cannot seek this on the pretext that his lawyer was a novice as he has been familiar with court proceedings.
“We have to weigh both sides. If we say that incompetency of a lawyer is a ground to recall witnesses then a lot of similar cases will come to us. If we do not do this, then it may cause injustice to some of the accused. So we will have to weigh both the sides, said Justice Khehar.
Read the Judgment here.