Members of the bar association in Saket district, where the case is being heard, had vowed not to represent them. Ahead of Monday's court appearance, the five were still believed to be without defence lawyers despite extensive interrogations by the police, who have said they have recorded confessions.Supreme Court lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma stood up to offer representation to the men and was booed by other lawyers in the packed courtroom, where media and advocates gathered before the men were due to appear.
The five men accused of the gang rape and murder of an Indian student appeared in court on Monday to hear charges against them, after two of them offered evidence possibly in return for a lighter sentence.
The five men, along with a teenager, are accused of raping the 23-year-old physiotherapy student during a hour-long bus journey in New Delhi. She died two weeks later on December 29 in a Singapore hospital.
The attack on the student has provoked widespread protests against the government and anger towards the police for their perceived failure to protect women, and rare national debate about violence against women.
The lawyer, M. L. Sharma said that the family members of the accused urged him to fight their case and added that it was inappropriate to brand them as convicts till the time their crime is proved in the court of law.
"They are not convicts till the time it is proved in the court of law. If these accused had been children of a billionaire, like the BMW (Hit and run case that occurred in New Delhi) case, a senior advocate would have represented them, there would not have been any protest against them, and money would have been flowing in this court. I agree that they are facing the allegation of rape, but if it is true or false I am yet to prove it.
(Q: So are you defending these accused? The whole country has branded them as criminals and all the evidence is against them.)
"I know the whole country has branded them as criminals and all the evidence is against them but the family members of the accused personally requested me, that is why I am taking up this case to prove if the evidence is actually correct or not," said Sharma.
Two of the accused, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta, moved an application on Saturday requesting they be made "approvers", or informers, against the other accused, a public prosecutor in the case,Rajiv Mohan said.
Sharma and Gupta, along with co-accused Mukesh Kumar, Ram Singh and Akshay Thakur, have already been charged with murder, rape and abduction along with other offences. Prosecutor Mohan told Reuters he was seeking the death sentence in the case given the "heinous" nature of the crime.
The sixth member of the gang that lured the student and a male friend into the private bus is under 18 and will be tried in a separate juvenile court.
The government is aiming to lower the age teenagers can be tried as an adult, given widespread public anger that the boy will face a maximum three year sentence.
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