NEW DELHI,MARCH 10: The Supreme Court today stayed a Delhi High Court order allowing the taxi driver, accused of raping a 25-year-old woman in an Uber cab here, to recall and re-examine 13 witnesses, including the victim in the trial.
The apex court also stayed the trial court proceedings and restrained the media from reporting statements of witnesses which have been recorded after the High Court’s order. “Issue notice to the respondents. The proceedings before the trial court shall remain stayed. The High Court order dated March 4 shall also remain stayed,” a bench headed by Justice J S Kehar said.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the alleged rape victim, said that the accused has wrongly been allowed to recall and re-examine the witnesses and it will create further agony for the victim and as a consequence, will delay the trial.
At the outset, the bench wanted to know as to whether recalling of witnesses can be allowed at the instance of an accused or not. It also said that to ensure fair trial, the accused may be allowed to re-examine the witnesses. During the hearing, the bench drew parallel with the grant and cancellation of bail to an accused with the permission to allow and disallow recalling of witnesses.
“Courts apply different yardsticks while granting and cancelling the bail. Likewise, if a court below has granted liberty to an accused to recall witnesses, then can this court deny it?” the bench said. Gonsalves, however, said that the trial court had passed “well reasoned order” and while reversing that the Delhi High Court didn’t give any specific reason for doing that.
The apex court had yesterday agreed to hear plea of the woman, who was allegedly raped by Shiv Kumar Yadav, driver of an Uber cab here, after she said that recalling of witnesses amounted to retrial in the case and sought an urgent hearing on the matter.
On March 4, the Delhi High Court had allowed recall of 13 prosecution witnesses, including the victim in the case, on the plea of Yadav and said their cross examination will be carried out on a day-to-day basis. The High Court had also made clear “not to repeat any question which has already been put to the witnesses in their cross examination by the earlier counsel”.
It had said that in case any witness is not available for the purpose of further cross examination, his/her testimony shall be read in evidence as it is. As per the charge sheet filed by Delhi Police, the incident took place on the night of December 5 last year when the victim, who was working for a finance company in Gurgaon, was headed back home. She had taken the taxi from Vasant Vihar to go to her house in Inderlok and the accused after taking another route, raped her, police said.
Earlier, the trial court had rejected Yadav’s plea for recalling witnesses while saying there was no change in circumstances except for a change of counsel, which was no ground to allow the application. The trial in the case had commenced on January 15 and the prosecution had concluded recording its evidence in 17 days by examining 28 witnesses.
The accused had not examined any witness in his defence. The court on January 13 had framed charges against Yadav under various sections of the IPC for alleged offences of endangering a woman’s life while raping her, kidnapping with an intent to compel her for marriage, criminally intimidating and causing hurt.