Mukesh Singh, one of the four death-row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, will make a request on February 17 to appoint a new lawyer when the court sits to decide a fresh execution date. At present, advocate Vrinda Grover assists the court in Mukesh’s matter.
The session court-appointed Grover on December 18, 2019, as amicus curie (friend of the court) for convict Mukesh. Advocate ML Sharma was Mukesh's counsel in the Supreme Court till 2017. After that, he opted out of Sharma's services.
Since he was unrepresented, the court was bound to appoint a lawyer. The law makes it mandatory for an accused or a convict to have his representation in the court.
“As Amicus for the court, I am only assisting the court in the law, as a friend of the court,” Grover told Outlook.
However, the convicts’ relatives allege that Mukesh is unhappy with Grover. They believe that she apparently made Mukesh file mercy petition to the President on January 14, hours after the Supreme Court rejected his curative petition.
The President rejected his mercy petition on January 17. They feel that Mukesh exhausted his legal options early.
“Mukesh has given me in writing to inform the court on February 17 that he doesn’t want to be represented by Grover now. He wants a new lawyer,” Heera Lal Gupta, father of another death-row convict Pawan Gupta, told Outlook.
Before Mukesh, Gupta himself made a request on Wednesday to have a new lawyer as he discontinued his association with lawyer AP Singh. The court provided him with a list of government lawyers to choose from. However, he expressed his lack of faith in government lawyers and sought time to look for one himself.
The court, meanwhile, appointed an advocate, Ravi Qazi, from the list of government lawyers.
While appointing Qazi for Gupta on February 13, the Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana held that the new lawyer needed time to familiarise with the case and adjourned the hearing for February 17.
Now Mukesh’s request for change of lawyer is expected to delay the hearing further as any new lawyer needs time to appraise himself with the issue and prepare for argument.
This can also be seen as delay tactics, for, if Mukesh had any doubts on Grover’s integrity, he should have raised the issue soon after she filed the mercy petition for him.
The remaining two other convicts, Vinay and Akshay, are represented by advocate AP Singh.
The session court on February 17 will decide a fresh date for the hanging of the four death-row convicts.