Kathua rape-murder case: Trials to begin today

The Supreme Court initiated a case on its own record saying such impediment "affects the dispensation of justice and would amount to obstruction of access to justice".

Trials against eight accused will start Monday in the gruesome Kathua rape and murder case of an 8-year-old girl who was held captive, starved and gang-raped inside a temple before being murdered.

The accused include a juvenile.  The chief judicial magistrate of Kathua will be committing one  of the charge sheets, in which seven people have been named, to the  sessions court for trial as mandated under the law. He will, however, hold the trial for the juvenile as it is  the designated court under the juvenile act, according to officials.

The Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti has already written to the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, seeking a fast track court to conclude within 90 days the trial in the case that has caused a nation-wide outrage.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has appointed two special public prosecutors, both Sikhs, for the trial in the sensitive case, a move being seen as made to ensure "neutrality" in view of Hindu-Muslim polarisation over the case.

The trial is expected to go smoothly after the Jammu Bar association  as well as the  Kathua Bar received a rap on the knuckles by the Supreme  Court on April 13 as the apex court took a strong note of some lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the case.

The Supreme Court initiated a case on its own record saying such impediment "affects the dispensation of justice and would amount to obstruction of access to justice".

A bench of Chief Justice DipakMisra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud was also critical of the Jammu High Court Bar  Association, which had passed a resolution not to attend the courts  saying "it is the duty of the bar association as a collective body  and they cannot obstruct the process of law".

 According to the charge sheets filed by the crime branch, the abduction,  rape and killing of the Bakerwal girl was part of a carefully planned  strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area.

It lists the caretaker of ‘Devisthan’, a small temple, in a village  inKathua, about 90 km from here, as the main conspirator behind the crime.

Sanji Ram was allegedly joined by special police officers Deepak  Khajuria and SurenderVerma, friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Ram’s  nephew, a juvenile, and his son Vishal Jangotra alias "Shamma".

The charge sheet also names investigating officers head constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs4  lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.

All eight are under arrest.

 The crime branch will also be handing over the notices issued to the Jammu Bar Council as well as Kathua Bar Council for appearing  before the Supreme Court on April 19.

The Bar Association of Kathua has already retracted from its earlier statement of providing legal assistance free of cost to the accused and said “after going through the charge sheet presented by the crime  branch (against the accused in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate  on April 9) it is revealed that the allegations against the accused  persons are very grave and as such this case is to be dealt with  in a professional way.

 "As such, we have withdrawn our offer to contest the case free of cost. Accused are free to engage any individual advocate and exercise their respective rights of defence in the court. It is for any individual advocate to accept the brief and the bar association will not come in the way of defence nor the bar association will hamper the prosecution," 

President of BAK KirtyBhushan Mahajan had said in a seven page statement on Saturday.

Members of the same association had blocked the way of crime branch personnel from submitting the charge sheet before the chief judicial magistrate for six hours forcing the police to present it at the  house of the magistrate.

 Police have already registered a case against lawyers for obstructing public servants from performing their duty.

 The Jammu Bar association, which was left red-faced after the Supreme Court’s observation, attempted to put a brave face saying they had full faith in the apex court and said their main demand was for shifting of illegally settled Rohingyas.

 It denounced the attempts made by certain quarters for making wrongful attempts to project the association as "pro-rapist" or "anti-national".

 The association today fielded a senior woman advocate SurinderKour who said "we are now satisfied that the case has reached the Supreme Court and we are satisfied that justice will be delivered  to the minor girl."

 JHCBA is on strike since April 4 and sponsored a general strike  on April 11 in Jammu to press for its demands including for according district status to Nowshera sub division in Rajouri district. PTI