Kathua rape case: FIR filed against lawyers trying to block chargesheet; bar association calls for Jammu bandh today

An FIR was registered against lawyers who attempted to prevent the police from filing chargesheet in the Kathua rape and murder case in Jammu and Kashmir, as the investigation drew to a close.

"The FIR has been lodged into the incident wherein some lawyers tried to obstruct the presenting of the chargesheet by the crime branch in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate at Kathua on Monday. Action under law will be taken against those found involved in the incident," Director General of Police SP Vaid said.

In response, the Jammu High Court Bar Association (JHBA) called for a bandh in the Jammu region on Wednesday in support of various demands, including CBI probe into the rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl. Claiming mass support to the call for a strike, JHBA said more than two dozen social, religious and political groups besides commercial transport and tanker unions have pledged support, Greater Kashmir reported.

"Pursuant to our meeting with civil society and leaders of different political parties on Saturday, we decided to observe a general strike on 11 April in the entire Jammu region," JHBA president BS Slathia was quoted by the report as saying.

Political parties slam protests

The Congress and CPM condemned the lawyers' protest, alleging that Monday's incident was part of a well-thought-out conspiracy to polarise communities in the state by giving a criminal act a communal colour.

 Kathua rape case: FIR filed against lawyers trying to block chargesheet; bar association calls for Jammu bandh today

Representational image. AFP

Lashing out at the lawyers, Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief GA Mir described the incident as "politically motivated, obnoxious and a conspiracy to achieve something out of this heinous crime for those hindering the process of justice".

CPM state secretary Ghulam Nabi Malik said some vested interests were trying to derive political mileage out of a brutal and inhuman act. "It is a shameful act and against the human values on part of these lawyers and their political masters, who instead of helping the victim's family to get justice, behaved like hooligans," he said.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who criticised the lawyers who tried to prevent the filing of the chargesheet, welcomed the registration of the FIR. "Good. Lawyers who have no respect for law deserve to have the full weight of the law books crash down on them," he tweeted.

National Conference general-secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said it was "unheard of" in the history of the country that white-collar professionals came out in support of those accused of such a crime. "We demand the case be shifted out of Kathua to any other place where the trial can be held without any interference," Sagar said, adding a fast-track court should be set up to ensure speedy justice to the victim.

Demanding strict action against those involved Monday's protests by lawyers, he lashed out at those who have called for a Jammu bandh on Wednesday, and urged the people of Jammu to defeat the nefarious designs of fringe elements.

The case so far

In January, an eight-year-old girl was abducted, raped and murdered in Rassana village in Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district. The body of the girl from the Bakarwal community was recovered from Rassana forest in Kathua on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area.

According to a report in The Print, a post-mortem report indicated damage to the girl's uterus and death due to asphyxiation. The police will present this as evidence that she was raped, and that she died after being strangulated with her shawl. A separate report by The Print also says that the DNA of a hair strand found at the site where her body was dumped matches with the DNA of one of the accused.

Available evidence is also said to have confirmed that the girl was held captive inside a temple before the murder, police officials said. Top sources in the state police crime branch said that the DNA of hair strands found inside the temple matched with those of *****.

Sanji Ram, a retired official of the revenue department is believed to have masterminded the heinous crime to create fear among the nomad 'Bakarwal' (goatherd) community in the village so that they could be pushed out. He is the custodian of the temple where the girl was allegedly held in captivity.

Nine accused, including Ram, his son Vishal Kumar, a police head constable, two special police officers (SPOs) and a sub-inspector of police have been arrested in the case.

Political posturing

Political temperatures in Jammu and Kashmir escalated after the arrest of Deepak Khajuria, a police officer who allegedly abducted the victim, kept her in confinement for seven days, and then murdered her. The Hindu Ekta Manch in the state has claimed Khajuria to be their member. A report by Sameer Yasir on Firstpost said that Khajuria was among those appointed to trace the victim after she went missing.

Soon after the incident, members of the Hindu Ekta Manch marched through the streets of Kathua with the tricolour to press for the release of the arrested persons. The protesters later changed their demand and sought a CBI inquiry after severe criticism from different quarters, including the chief minister. Two BJP ministers — Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga — visited the protesters and supported their demand for a CBI probe.

The BJP has alleged that one of the members of SIT investigating the case himself was involved in a "twin murder and rape case of Hindu boy and a girl".

On 8 March, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had rejected the demand for a CBI probe and said the probe was almost 95 percent complete.

Separatist groups in the state also expressed rage over the rape and murder. At a joint protest rally, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik demanded death penalty for those responsible for the crime.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 22:53:21 IST