SC stays Kathua rape and murder case trial till May 7
The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the trial in the case of the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to hear the suspects before deciding on a plea to transfer the case to Chandigarh.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra asked the magistrate not to proceed with the trial in a court in Kathua town on Saturday. The top court said it would hear on May 7 the plea for transfer of the trial.
“How can the judge hear if we are looking into the transfer petition,” the CJI said.
The biological father of the child victim has filed the transfer plea before the Supreme Court.
“There are only two questions of law that we need to decide. One is whether the case can be taken over by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and second if we should transfer the mater out of the state. At this juncture we do not think a CBI probe is necessary,” the bench said when counsel for three of the eight accused claimed that investigation of the case by Jammu and Kashmir police hadn’t been fair.
The CJI had on Thursday said the court will transfer the case outside of Jammu if there was the slightest doubt over the possibility of a fair trial. He also ruled out a CBI inquiry for the time being.
The Jammu and Kashmir government opposed the transfer of the trial, saying it had a different penal code and a transfer would pose inconvenience to the witnesses who live in the state. Also, a lot of money would have to be spent on their travel and security. It has already said no to a CBI probe in the case.
J&K has its own penal code, called the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), and criminal procedure that are different from the ones followed in other states. This anomaly could create problems during the trial if it is shifted out. The state asserted that its investigation of the case had been in-depth and conclusive and a charge sheet has already been filed before the court.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, however, rejected the state’s contention .She said the content of the RPC was identical to that of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which other states follow. She submitted requirements of a fair trial entail no intimidation against the presiding judge and no hooliganism by lawyers. She recalled an April 9 incident in which members of the Kathua Bar Association protested and heckled the police team that reached the district court to file a charge sheet against the accused. This incident has been denied by a fact-finding team of the Bar Council of India and the Kathua Bar Association.
Jaising argued the local lawyers had made an attempt to abort the trial because they did not want the charge sheet to be filed in time so that the accused be released on bail.
CJI Misra told Jaising , Supreme Court will not transcend the contours of the criminal procedure code. “We have to evaluate the submissions of the state and decide whether it’s a proper approach or not,” Justice Misra said.
The Centre on Friday told the top court that it would extend whatever assistance was required from it.
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