Park Street case in charge bind

Charges are yet to be framed in the year-old Park Street rape case and chances are they won't be anytime soon.

On at least four occasions in the past eight months the court has had to defer the date for framing charges as the prosecution and the defence sparred over the process.

Lawyers involved in the case said that during Tuesday's hearing, the judge had asked for the seal on the CCTV hard disks ' purportedly containing footage of the accused and the victim last seen together at a hotel ' to be broken in the presence of a technical expert in the court and a copy made for the defence team.

"The additional sessions judge of the third fast-track court, Madhuchhanda Bose, said the prosecution will have to produce the hard disks, break the seals before an expert and prepare a copy for the defence," said K.K. Tiwari, the lawyer representing Sumit Bajaj, one of the four accused in custody. According to the complaint, it was in Bajaj's car that the 37-year-old had been gang-raped on the night of February 5 last year.

The judge's ruling followed defence counsel Ashok Bakshi's submission, seeking copies of documents and proofs based on which the prosecution is building its case.

"While submitting the chargesheet, police had said that the forensic report (on the disks) was pending. Now that the report has arrived, we have the right to get a copy of the footage stored in the disks," Bakshi submitted.

Sources attached to the case said the defence team had always objected to the prosecution's plea for an order to break the seal on the disks on the grounds that it would make the evidence "prone to tampering".

Lawyers not involved in the case told Metro that these are "standard tactics" to delay framing of charges, without which trial could not start.

"The only way to make a copy of the content of the disks is to break the seal. But the defence was opposing the breaking of the seal on one hand and seeking a copy of the content on the other. This is obviously a delaying tactic. It's anybody's guess when the charges could finally be framed," said a lawyer not a party to the case.

Another lawyer said the process of framing charges could have been expedited had the differences between the prosecution and the defence been sorted out earlier.

The Telegraph had on January 13 reported that a CCTV footage showing the accused and the complainant together on the night of the alleged incident had gone missing.

The complainant's lawyer filed a petition seeking a judicial probe to find out how the key evidence went missing. He has also sought daily hearing in the case. The case will be heard again on January 31.

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