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India Crime Kathua rape-and-murder case: Verdict likely on 10 June

Kathua rape-and-murder case: Verdict likely on 10 June

The Kathua rape-and-murder case became a subject of national as well as international debate in April last year, with Bollywood celebrities breaking the law to name the victim, a minor so that her religion could be identified and the Hindu community held guilty for the crime

Jammu: The verdict in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be delivered on 10 June, nearly a year after the trial began in a court in Pathankot, special public prosecutor JK Chopra said Monday.

District and sessions judge Tejwinder Singh announced in the court that he is likely to deliver the judgement on 10 June at 10 AM, Chopra said.

Defence lawyers completed their final arguments on Monday, followed by a brief concluding statement from the prosecution team led by Chopra, officials said.

The day-to-day in-camera trial began in the first week of June last year at the district and sessions court in Pathankot after the Supreme Court directed that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir.

The apex court move came after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a charge sheet in the case, which shocked the nation with the details of the brutality.

Kathua rape-and-murder accused

The Crime Branch had arrested village head Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, juvenile nephew and his friend Anand Dutta, and two special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma. Head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, were also arrested.

The case had become a bone of contention between the then ruling alliance partners PDP and the BJP after two ministers of the saffron party, Chowdhury Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, participated in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir crime branch.

In an order last year, the apex court said, “The pivotal fact around which the controversy centres, is abduction, rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl. An FIR was lodged at Hiranagar Police Station, Kathua… The investigating agency, namely, the Crime Branch, which took over the investigation on 22 January 2018 from the local police has already filed the charge sheet on 9 April 2018, in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The apex court transferred the trial to the district and sessions judge in Pathankot in Punjab, 30 km from Kathua.

“The learned district and sessions judge, Pathankot, shall himself take up the trial and not assign it to any additional sessions judge and shall fast-track the trial and take it up on day-to-day basis so that there is no delay in trial,” the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had said in April last year.

All the accused, barring the juvenile, were moved to Gurdaspur jail following an intervention by the Supreme Court which also restricted the appearance of the defence lawyers and limited it to one or maximum of two per accused.

According to the charge sheet, the eight-year-old girl, who was kidnapped on 10 January last year, was allegedly raped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days before she was bludgeoned to death.

The abduction, rape and killing of the child was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the 15-page charge sheet said.

Charges of rape and murder were framed by the district and sessions judge against seven out of the eight accused. The trial against the juvenile is yet to begin as his petition on his age is to be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Kathua: The other version

In April 2018, the eight people accused of raping and killing an eight-year-old girl in the Harinagar village of Kathua today pleaded not guilty and asked the district and sessions judge for a narco test.

That month, a large group of Jammu-based lawyers were alleged by the mainstream media and Bollywood celebrities to be trying to save the rape-and-murder victim by diverting the issue to nationalism. The lawyers, however, convened a press conference and clarified that policeman Irfan Wani, a Kashmiri member of the Crime Branch, was notorious for inciting communal passions in the State and that he was once booked for the crime though later acquitted.

The lawyers said they were carrying the National Flag and were chanting “Jai Sri Ram” not to demand an exoneration of the rape accused, but to demand the ouster of the Myanmarese infiltrators. They alleged that a large section of the media had misreported their demonstrations by linking two separate, mutually unrelated stories.

The lawyers insisted they wanted justice for the victim in the gang-rape incident and were not fighting for the acquittal of any of the accused. However, they added that the victim wouldn’t get justice until cops like Wani were in the team, who, they feared, would frame some innocent people and let the actual criminals go scot-free. They demanded a CBI inquiry, which the authority declined.

In May that year, a bench of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud on Monday agreed to hear on 16 May the plea of three witnesses in the Kathua gangrape and murder case, alleging that they are being harassed by the State police. The petition alleged that the State police were asking them to re-appear and re-record their statements and exerting pressure on their families.

In August, the Supreme Court sought a response from the Jammu and Kashmir government on a plea by Talib Hussain, a key witness in the sensational Kathua gang rape-and-murder case, alleging custodial torture by the State police in an alleged fake rape case.

Our editor-in-chief Surajit Dasgupta wrote last year, “Dainik Jagran has been punching big holes in the narrative set by English language news channels of India: NDTV, Times Now, India Today, IBN-Network 18, NewsX, WION and Republic TV.”

“Print media, in this example,” Dasgupta wrote, “has not covered itself in glory. It has merely repeated the television story: That the girl — shamelessly named by some journalists arguably to flare up communal passions — went missing on 10 January this year and that her body was recovered on the 17th. Their story is that she was continuously gang-raped and finally murdered inside, of all places, a temple! And that a gang of lawyers, based in Jammu, are agitating to free the eight accused.”

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