Kathua case: SC shifts trial to Pathankot
The trial in the brutal Kathua gang-rape and murder case will now be held at the District and Sessions Court, Pathankot in Punjab after the Supreme Court on Monday ordered shifting the sensitive case out of Jammu & Kashmir to ensure free and speedy trial.
Ordering the transfer of the case to Pathankot, a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and Justices DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra directed the trial be held in-camera and on a day-to-day basis without adjournment.
The Bench also directed providing adequate security to the witnesses, victim’s family and counsel and said the trial will be held in accordance with the provisions of Ranbir Penal Code, which is applicable in Jammu and Kashmir. It also allowed the J&K government to appoint public prosecutor to conduct prosecution of accused in the trial at Pathankot.
The court also refused to look into the plea of transferring the investigation to the CBI, made by two prime accused in the case – Sanji Ram and Vishal Jangotra. The duo had opposed the shifting of the trial and contended they were framed by the state police.
The bench on 27 April had stayed the trial conducted at the Session Court in Kathua.
Fixing July 9 as the next date of hearing, the Bench said it will monitor the trial.
TheBench passed the order in a petition filed by the victim’s father seeking the trial be conducted outside Jammu and Kashmir after some lawyers allegedly obstructed court proceedings and threatened the advocate representing the family.
The eight-year-old victim belonging to the nomadic Bakarwal community was abducted, drugged and gangraped for days before being killed and mutilated in January. As per the charge sheet filed by the J&K Police, the girl was first strangulated and her head hit twice with a stone.
The father had approached the apex court after a section of lawyers allegedly prevented Crime Branch officers from submitting the chargesheet in the case. The victim family’s counsel Deepika Rajawat had also expressed apprehensions, including getting killed or raped.
However, the allegations of obstruction in filing the charge-sheet and those made by Rajawat were refuted by the Bar Council of India (BCI) which probed the matter and submitted a report to the Supreme Court bench.
Giving a clean chit to the Jammu lawyers, the BCI probe panel headed by former Allahabad High Court judge Tarun Agarwala, blamed the media for misreporting the incident and dismissed allegations of threats to Rajawat.
The petitioner had contended that Rajawat has been constantly under threat since she took the case.
“The severity of the threat reached an extent where even the family members of Deepika, including her five-year-old daughter are under attack by the supporters of the accused,” the petitioner had said seeking transfer of the trial and adequate security for the victim’s family and their counsel.
Rajawat herself had expressed apprehension of getting raped or killed.
I don't know till when I will be alive. I can be raped, my modesty can be outraged, I can be killed, I can be damaged. I was threatened yesterday that 'we will not forgive you'. I am going to tell SC tomorrow that I am in danger: Deepika S Rajawat, Counsel, Kathua victim's family pic.twitter.com/khXFELUqZe— ANI (@ANI) April 15, 2018
On Monday, however, Rajawat was happy with the apex court’s order and exuded confidence of fair trial.
“The court directed the trial be shifted to Pathankot. It seems justice has been done to the child (victim) despite the fact that so many people criticised the issue and so many people try to malign the case by imputing lies. The basic concern was of free trial and speedy justice, which we are now hoping,” Rajawat told the media outside the court.
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti too welcomed the court’s order.
“I welcome today’s decision by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Kathua case. This will go a long way to boost the morale of our @JmuKmrPolice force who in the face of great adversity have left no stone unturned to ensure that the deceased’s family gets justice,” she tweeted.
I welcome today’s decision by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Kathua case. This will go a long way to boost the morale of our @JmuKmrPolice force who in the face of great adversity have left no stone unturned to ensure that the deceased’s family gets justice.— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) May 7, 2018
The CM also asserted that there was “absolutely no need for a CBI probe” into the case.
The BJP, which is a partner in the Mehbooba-led government in the state has been at the receiving end over the acts of its overzealous members. Two of its ministers, Choudhary Lal Singh and Chandar Prakash Ganga, had to quit as ministers after they campaigned for handing over the case to the CBI, and defended those arrested in case.
Subsequently, party leader Kavinder Gupta soon after getting sworn in as the deputy chief minister of the state, courted controversy by calling the gruesome occurrence a “small incident”.