SC stays trial in Kathua rape

NEW DELHI, Apr 27:
The Supreme Court today stayed till May 7 the trial in the sensational Kathua gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl, saying it was seized of the pleas seeking transfer of trial to Chandigarh and handing over the probe to the CBI.
The top court said it will hear in detail and deal with the issues of shifting of the trial outside Kathua and the demand of CBI probe.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra said since the matter in the Kathua district court is listed for tomorrow, there shall be a stay on trial till May 7.
It asked the parties to file their affidavits and counter-affidavits on the petitions filed by the victim’s father and the three accused in the case.
The child from a minority nomadic community had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
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During the hearing, the Apex Court witnessed heated exchanges between senior advocate Indira Jaising, who appeared for the victim’s family, and advocate Harvinder Chaudhary, representing two of the accused charge sheeted by the crime branch of Jammu and Kashmir police.
Chaudhary said “the accused who are father and son have been falsely implicated in the case. The real culprit has not been caught. We are ready for narco-analysis. A tainted police official is involved in the probe. We are questioning the validity of the probe. There will be great injustice to us. Everything should be highlighted”.
Jaising said the accused have no locus to be heard in the matter and Chaudhary has been saying all this for the media persons present in the court room.
“Your lordships must note this. Wild charges are being levelled. They are asking for a CBI probe as they know that the police have done an excellent job in the case,” Jaising said.
She said it must be noted that after yesterday’s hearing Bar at Jammu have celebrated on social media calling it as a moral victory because court has not reprimanded them.
“The court must know what is happening in this country. They have celebrated on the social media. Called the lawyers representing the victim’s family, names. Court should check the social media,” she said.
Chaudhary said his clients do not have faith in police investigation and the probe should go to the CBI. She alleged that the police was hand-in-glove with vested interests to falsely implicate the accused while the real culprits were someone else.
Jaising said the case be transferred to Chandigarh due to proximity to Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the incidents of obstruction of police personnel by lawyers of the local court.
She said attempts were made to intimidate the presiding judge of the court and the Crime Branch officials were heckled by the lawyers, as is evident in the affidavit of Jammu and Kashmir Government.
Jammu and Kashmir Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, along with State’s standing counsel Shoeb Alam, also opposed the prayer for a CBI probe and said the SIT of the crime branch was investigating the case.
Ganai said the trial could be shifted from Kathua and Jammu to some other district in the State as there were 221 witnesses and most of the statements recorded so far were in Urdu.
Alam said that Jammu and Kashmir has its own penal law and if the trial is shifted to Chandigarh, then it may create several problems.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, said the Government was ready to provide any assistance if required but the call has to be taken by the Jammu and Kashmir Government.
Jaising said at this stage of investigation, the accused should not be heard and they have no locus.
To this, the bench said it is a question of transfer of trial from one place to another and the accused have a right to be heard in the matter.
Jaising said the court should understand the real motive behind everything and the obstruction was done by the lawyers at Kathua to prevent the crime branch from filing the charge sheet and enable the accused get bail by default.
“They want CBI probe because they know police have done an excellent job in the case,” she said.
The bench said it was aware of the situation and adjourned the matter for further hearing.
The Apex Court had yesterday warned that it would transfer the gangrape and murder case from the Kathua court in the “slightest possibility” of lack of fair trial, saying the “real concern” was to hold proper prosecution.
The eight-year-old’s father had moved the Apex Court earlier, apprehending threat to the family, a friend and their lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat. Separate pleas were also filed by three accused seeking that the trial in the case be held in Jammu and the probe handed over to the CBI.
The State police’s Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed the main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district last week. The chargesheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed. (PTI)