The Kathua case was brought to a conclusion on Monday with a special court in Punjab's Pathankot sentencing three main accused in the gangrape-and-murder of an eight-year-old nomad girl to life imprisonmen, lawyers said.
Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the temple where the crime took place, Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian, have been convicted under Ranbir Penal Code sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gangrape, destruction of evidence, drugging the victim and common intention, the lawyers said.
They have been sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs 1 lakh each for murder along with 25 years in jail for gangrape, they said.
Three accomplices — Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma — who were convicted for destruction of evidence have been handed over five years imprisonment, they said.
Earlier on Monday, the Pathankot special court had found six out of the seven accused guilty on charges of rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl belonging to the Bakarwal community in Jammu and Kashmir.
A seventh accused, Vishal, who is the son of main accused Sanjhi Ram, was acquitted in the judgment passed by District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh.
"The court has convicted six persons. Son of one of the accused Sanji Ram, Vishal has been acquitted," Farooqi Khan, lawyer of victim's family said after the sentencing.
Those convicted are main accused Sanjji Ram, the village head, Anand Datta and two special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma. Also convicted are head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Datta, who allegedly took Rs four lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
The convicts faced life imprisonment as the minimum punishment, and death penalty as the maximum. Ahead of the declaration of the quantum of the punishment, several reports quoted the family of the victim calling for capital punishment for the convicts.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the court order in the Kathua case. "Welcome the judgment. High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8-year-old child was drugged, raped repeatedly and then bludgeoned to death. Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited and culprits get exemplary punishment," Mufti tweeted.
Omar also said that the guilty deserved the "most severe punishment under the law". "And to those politicians who defended the accused, vilified the victim and threatened the legal system, no words of condemnation are enough," he added.
Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal lauded the police for securing the conviction of the accused persons. "Congratulations to @JmuKmrPolice for getting Raisina Kathua rapists convicted. Politicians tried their best to sabotage the movement for justice to A (the victim). But the Honble Court and the law enforcement agencies stood their ground. Pray we never have to see such horror again," he tweeted.
Ahead of the pronouncement of the verdict, defence lawyers Ankur Sharma and AK Sawhney had expressed confidence that the accused would be acquitted. Sharma said that the case had been "marred" by a "media trial" and said that the defence will approach the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
"We asked for the CBI trial that wasn't given," he said. Sawhney also said that the case had been a "conspiracy" of the then-state government, headed by Mufti.
The Supreme Court had on 7 May, 2018, transferred the case from Kathua to Pathankot in Punjab. The in-camera trial in the case that shook the nation ended on 3 June. According to the 15-page charge sheet, the eight-year-old girl, who was kidnapped on January 10 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 killed.
The day-to-day trial commenced in the first week of June 2018 at the district and sessions court in Pathankot in Punjab, about 100 kilometres from Jammu and 30 kilometres from Kathua, after the Supreme Court order.
Charges against the guilty were framed under the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), including Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang-rape), according to the prosecution. Charges of destruction of evidence and causing hurt by poisoning under Section 328 of the RPC were also framed.
The two policemen — Raj and Datta — were also charged under Section 161 (public servant taking illegal gratification) of the RPC.
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 state crime branch.
"The case assumed communal undertones after a narrative emerged that the crime had been committed in a an attempt to drive out the Muslim nomadic community to child belonged to. Further controversy erupted after several sections of the public came out in open support of the accused, decrying their arrest as an attempt to victimise Hindus," Bar and Bench reported.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jun 10, 2019 17:25:08 IST