"It is a very unfortunate situation, we are extremely pained. That is what we can say," a division bench of Justice Reva Khetrapal and Justice Pratibha Rani said on the repeated absence of counsel M.L. Sharma, who is appearing for two convicts.
"Running away will not solve the problem. How long will you run? Better to put your best foot forward," the bench said, and also warned them of appointing an amicus curiae. The court also remarked that it is a "deliberate attempt" to "forestall" the hearing of appeal.
The bench took strong objection to Sharma's conduct of leaving Delhi without informing the court.
"Why was the court not informed that he was going outstation? How discourteous is it to the court to go away without informing us," Justice Khetrapal said.
Through his proxy counsel, Sharma filed an affidavit in the court saying he went to Mumbai Oct 7 to argue before Justice Chandrachud there, and will come before the Delhi High Court for argument Nov 12.
However, Special Public Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan pointed out that Justice Chandrachud has taken over as the chief justice of the Allahabad High Court.
The court also issued production warrants for all the four convicts - Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh - for Nov 11. The court noted that none of the family members of the convicts was present.
The bench gave a last chance to advocate A.P. Singh, appearing for Vinay and Akshay, to be present Monday. The amicus curiae (counsel to assist the court) will be appointed otherwise, the bench said.
In the order, Justice Khetrapal said: "Counsel for Vinay and Akshay is also not present. It appears that it is a deliberate attempt to forestall the hearing of the appeal. We are left with no option except to adjourn the hearing for Monday. On that date, if counsel do not come, we shall appoint amicus curiae. Not only this, none of the family members are present in the court."
Meanwhile, the prosecution concluded its arguments on the confirmation of death sentence to the four convicts, saying: "By giving the maximum sentence, the message to the society would be that deviant behaviour of an extreme kind will not be tolerated."
Krishnan argued that the socio-economic status of convicts cannot be determinative in sentencing in a gangrape, coupled with murder.
The trial court Sep 13 awarded the death sentence to Mukesh, 26, Akshay Thakur, 28, Pawan Gupta, 19, and Vinay Sharma, 20, convicted in the case, and referred the case to the high court for confirmation of their sentence.
The 23-year-old student of physiotherapy was brutally gangraped in a moving bus by six people, including a juvenile. The accused then threw her and her male companion out of the vehicle, stripped of clothing, to die by the roadside on the cold December night.
The woman died of grave intestinal injuries Dec 29 at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital, where she was airlifted for specialised treatment.
One of the six accused was found dead in a cell in Delhi's Tihar Jail. A juvenile involved in the crime was Aug 31 sent by the Juvenile Justice Board to a reform home for three years, the maximum term under the juvenile law.