Dec 16 gangrape: Bus owner called to depose in court

New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) A Delhi court hearing the Dec 16, 2012, gangrape case Wednesday directed the owner of the bus in which the 23-year-old woman was brutalised, to testify as a witness the day after.

Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna, issuing warrant for Thursday for bus owner Dinesh Yadav directed him to be present as a prosecution witness to find out who he had handed over the custody of the vehicle on the fateful night.

Yadav is lodged in Tihar Jail after his arrest for cheating while procuring the bus licences and plying it on Delhi roads illegally.

"Considering the facts and circumstances and as offence was committed inside the bus, it is important to find out as to who he had handed over the custody of the bus on the night of Dec 16, 2012. His evidence becomes relevant. Hence, it is just and proper to call prosecution witness Dinesh Yadav," the court said.

The court also summoned as prosecution witness Ramadhar, a carpenter who was robbed by the accused in the bus before they gangraped the woman.

The judge's direction came on the application of police for its permission to call Yadav and Ramadhar as a prosecution witnesses in the case.

Police in their application said that Ramadhar's testimony could show that the accused on the night of the incident had conspired to commit offences with commuters on the bus.

The judge said: "Since the charge of conspiracy has been framed against the accused, I feel that no prejudice shall be caused to them if prosecution is allowed to examine Ramadhar as witness in this case and it would also be necessary and essential for decision of this case and in the interest of justice."

Not summoning the two witnesses may be perceived as being unfair to the accused, the police application said.

Counsel for accused Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh -- who are facing trial for the gangrape and murder of the woman, besides for offences under various other sections of the Indian Penal Code - opposed the prosecution's move.

Counsel appearing for Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur argued that since police had dropped Yadav's name as a witness from their list, he could not be summoned.

The court rejected the submission and said since the prosecution evidence was going on, there was no harm in calling any such witness.

Meanwhile, the court deferred the cross-examination of a woman investigating officer, who initially probed the case. The cross-examination of the officer will continue after the two new prosecution witnesses record their statements.

The case relates to a 23-year-old physiotherapist woman who was brutally tortured and gangraped in a moving bus by five men and a juvenile, after she boarded the vehicle with her male friend.

The juvenile is facing proceedings before a Juvenile Justice Board, while the four other accused were put up for trial in the fast-track court. One of the accused allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail, where he was lodged.

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