Metropolitan magistrate Namrita Aggarwal, in whose court five of the six arrested in the case were being produced, barred all persons not directly involved in the trial, including lawyers, media persons and the general public, from watching or reporting the proceedings.
The five men were later brought to the Saket courtroom under heavy security and supplied copies of the chargesheet filed by police. They have been given time to scrutinise the chargesheet and engage a lawyer.
The court will take up the matter for further proceedings on January 10. A legal aid counsel was reportedly deputed to “look after their interest” during the hearing today.
Two advocates who expressed willingness to represent the accused in court were asked to “approach the accused directly and appear before the court only with the signed vakalatnama” .
The court was forced to order in camera proceedings in view of “apprehension to the safety of the undertrial prisoners” due to the “unprecedented situation” of a large crowd gathering inside the courtroom.
The court invoked sections 327(2) and 327(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure which provide for in camera proceedings in a rape trial and prohibit reporting, in publication or otherwise, any matter in relation to the proceedings except with the permission of the court. Even when permission is given, the CrPC states that the identity of the victim must not be revealed.
“I am invoking sections 327(2) and 327(3) CrPC. The proceedings in the case will from now proceed under section 327(2) CrPC i.e. the inquiry and trial shall be held in camera,” the magistrate said.
Scores of lawyers and mediapersons packed the courtroom, leading to chaos in the proceedings. Noting that there was “virtually a crowd occupying every inch of space in the courtroom, even to the extent of standing next to the sitting space allotted to the reader and stenographer,” the court held that “it has become completely impossible for the court proceedings.”
Several lawyers present in the courtroom wore red ribbons on their arms to register solidarity with the rape victim and protest over crimes against women. Arguments broke out among groups of lawyers on the question of representing the accused.
One advocate from the Supreme Court, who appeared in the court and claimed that he had been engaged by “a relative of the accused” to represent them in court, was the target of several people, including lawyers. He was shouted at, even threatened by those gathered there who demanded that the accused be handed to the public and hanged without a “useless protracted trial.”
Another advocate who claimed to have “volunteered to become amicus curiae in the case” to “assist the court in ensuring a fair trial by representing the accused” was also targeted by the crowd.
People were asked by the court staff to move out but they did not listen. While ordering in camera proceedings, the magistrate observed that “the lock-up in-charge states that he is unable to bring the accused persons in the court for want of safe passage or room in the court”.
The prosecution had also moved an application in court for proceedings to be held in camera after appeals by police personnel to vacate space in the courtroom for the accused had no effect.