Soon after winning the Sirsa seat Thursday, Gopal Kanda, the Haryana Lokhit Party’s sole legislator, pledged support to the BJP, hoping to return to power. That very offer of support led to an uproar, prompting a rethink in the BJP. Because Kanda is still facing trial in a Delhi court, charged with abetment to suicide of an air hostess who used to work for his now defunct MDLR Airlines.
Exactly three weeks ago, the judge, exasperated by the slow pace of the trial, questioned the repeated absence of the public prosecutor and witnesses, and said it is “a very strange situation where the State is showing least interest in prosecution of this case”.
Initially charged with rape and abetment to suicide of the young air hostess — the charge of unnatural sex was added later — Kanda went on trial, along with alleged associate Aruna Chadha, in May 2013. Kanda and Chadha challenged this before the Delhi High Court which, on July 25, 2013, set aside the charges of rape and unnatural sex. On December 6, 2013, the trial court passed a fresh order to put Kanda and Chadha on trial for abetment to suicide.
Six years later, and the case before a special court that deals only with cases against legislators, the trial has been crawling. The reason: non-availability of a public prosecutor, witnesses not appearing before the court despite summons, and incomplete evidence produced in court.
On October 3, Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar summoned the Director (Prosecution) to his court to explain why the special public prosecutor had not been appearing for Delhi Police since September 23 to record evidence.
“It may be noted that… Special PP assigned for this case by the State Government is not appearing since 23.09.2019… On the last date of hearing for non-appearance of learned SPP, the Director of Prosecution was informed and asked to convey this to the State Government… I find it a very strange situation where the State is showing least interest in prosecution of this case. By simply writing a letter to the State Government, it appears that Director (Prosecution) has washed off his hands from the responsibility to conduct the trial on behalf of the State,” judge Kuhar said.
The next day, the Director (Prosecution) informed the court that “since a Special Public Prosecutor has been appointed by the Govt. of NCT of Delhi, he cannot appoint a Prosecutor to conduct this case”. At this, the court made scathing observations regarding the manner in which the trial had been conducted by the prosecution:
* “Yesterday also, three witnesses had to be discharged unexamined as learned Special Public Prosecutor did not appear. Today also, learned Special Public Prosecutor is not present.”
* “Earlier also on 23.09.2019, one witness… had to be discharged unexamined because learned SPP… preferred not to appear in the court.”
* “I have gone through the previous order sheets which reflect that earlier… learned Special PP was burdened with a cost of Rs 5000, which was once waived but again cost was imposed upon him for his non- appearance and non-prosecution of this case by him.”
* “Today again, one witness… has come all the way from Hyderabad to attend this court. But still learned Special Public Prosecutor is not present.”
Pulling up Delhi Police, the court then issued notices to the Special Secretary (Home), Department of Govt. of NCT of Delhi, and the Additional DCP to “appear and apprise this court how the State intends to prosecute this case.” The court order was also sent to the Police Commissioner.
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On October 11, the court was informed that a new prosecutor had been appointed to conduct the trial. The Delhi government assigned the case to Additional Public Prosecutor Manish Rawat following his appointment on October 10. The court fixed November 27 and 28 for recording of prosecution evidence.
Only 45 of 94 prosecution witnesses statements have been recorded so far and 12 names dropped from the list.
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