Kathua rape case: SC agrees to hear accused's plea to transfer probe to CBI, holding trial in Jammu

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to consider a plea of two accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua that the trial in the case is held in Jammu and the probe handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud considered the plea of the accused, Sanji Ram and Vishal Jangotra, that they be impleaded as parties to the petition filed by the victim's father. The eight-year-old's father had moved the apex court earlier, apprehending a threat to the family, a friend and their lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat.

Expressing satisfaction with the probe conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir police in the case, the father had also sought transfer of the trial from Kathua court to Chandigarh. However, the accused are asking for the opposite, seeking a CBI probe and a trial in Kathua district itself.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Thursday issued notices to the state government and the CBI, asking them to file objections to the plea of a sub-inspector and a special police officer seeking a probe by the agency into the Kathua rape and murder case.

Kathua rape case: SC agrees to hear accuseds plea to transfer probe to CBI, holding trial in Jammu

Representational image. AP

On Wednesday, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Jammu, today told the Supreme Court that advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat, who is representing the victim's family in the Kathua rape and murder case, was not threatened by any member of the lawyers' body. In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Bar Association had vehemently asserted that it did not threaten Rajawat.

Rajawat had complained to Acting Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar earlier in April, alleging that the Association’s president, Senior Advocate BS Slathia and other office bearers had threatened her from appearing on behalf of the victim’s family.

Besides, the association also denied claims of having obstructed the Police from filing the chargesheet in the matter before the magistrate. The affidavit further highlights the fact that after the Supreme Court took up the case, the bar association resumed work. These submissions, the association said, had been placed before the committee constituted by the Bar Council of India (BCI) after the nation-wide condemnation of lawyers of the state for their alleged actions.

Accorded to a report in India Today, the affidavit further states there was a need for a "fair and impartial" CBI probe into the rape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl while maintaining that it had not obstructed smooth functioning of the justice delivery system in any manner. It has claimed that a "motivated and malicious campaign" by some media channels has created an "erroneous impression" about the motives of the bandh call in Jammu by projecting the legal fraternity and also the people supporting it as "pro-rapists, which is factually incorrect and misleading as such denied."

"However, in order to ensure justice to the victim, the demand for a CBI enquiry in the Kathua rape and murder case was disassociated from the on-going agitation, as the matter had already landed before the court of law and the remedy, if any, was within the competence of the court of law, but still the association believes that the justice shall be done to the victim only after a fair and impartial probe by the CBI," the affidavit said. With regard to the allegation of obstruction or extending threat to Rajawat, the association said, "It is totally false and baseless and the same is vehemently/specifically denied".

The lawyers' body said that District Bar Association, Kathua, was also supporting the demand for transfer of probe in the case to the CBI. "As the charge sheet was filed in Kathua, and the alleged obstruction, if any, caused in filing the same can be better explained by the members of District Bar Association, Kathua," it said.

The affidavit has also alleged that after the forcible exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley, organised state-sponsored attempts were being made from time to time to create a Kashmir like situation by ensuring a demographic change in Jammu region, where state and forest land had been found to be illegally occupied. "The members of the association would highlight that they feel a grave threat to their security, life and property in the given circumstances where the state has miserably failed to perform its constitutional duty", the affidavit read.

"In fact, by this act of omission and commission it has the effect of encouraging certain forces that are hell-bent to change the Jammu's demography so that the people living in Jammu region are made to feel insecure and toe line of anti-national forces, which are duly encouraged and patronised by foreign powers, especially Pakistan", it further stated.

On 13 April, a bench headed by Chief Justice Misra had taken a serious note of lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the case and had initiated a case on its own accord saying such impeding of the process of law "affects the delivery of justice". The apex court had also ordered the state police to grant security to the family of the victim, their friend and their lawyer.

However, on Thursday the Supreme Court said that its "real concern" was to see that a fair trial was conducted in the case and that if it will find the slightest possibility of lack of fair trial, it will transfer the case out of Kathua.

The minor girl went missing from a forested area near her home in Kathua on 10 January and her body was found in the same area a week later. The Jammu and Kashmir Police's Crime Branch, which probed the case, has filed the main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate case against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district. The charge sheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged, raped inside a place of worship before being killed.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Apr 26, 2018 13:41:52 IST

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