Five men appeared in court for the first time on Monday to face charges over the murder and gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi amid chaotic scenes that forced the hearing behind closed doors.
Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said the men had been appointed a defense lawyer, but declined to comment on reports that two of the defendants have reportedly offered to cooperate in return for more lenient sentences.
“The five have been provided with one counsel from the legal aid services,” he said following the hearing in the Saket district court complex in the south of the Indian capital.
The suspects, residents of New Delhi slums aged from 19 to 35, were brought to the court complex from the capital’s high-security Tihar jail under high security due to fears for their safety after three weeks of protests.
Some lawyers staged protests while others argued over whether the suspects had a right to defense counsels after two Supreme Court advocates stepped forward offering to defend the men in order to ensure a fair trial.
“It has become completely impossible for the courtroom proceedings to proceed,” Aggarwal said in an order that forced all journalists and lawyers not connected with the case to vacate the stuffy room.
The accused, who could face the death penalty if convicted, face a string of charges including rape, murder and kidnap. A sixth accused, who is 17, is to be tried in a separate court for juveniles.
The next hearing has been set for Thursday and will also take place behind closed doors.