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Supreme Court transfers Kathua rape and murder case to Punjab’s Pathankot court, rules out CBI probe

The Supreme Court allowed Jammu and Kashmir government to appoint a public prosecutor and said the state government should provide security to Kathua rape victim’s family, their lawyer and witnesses in the case.

india Updated: May 08, 2018 07:23 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kathua victim’s lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat flashes the victory sign outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Monday.
Kathua victim’s lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat flashes the victory sign outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Monday. (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times)
         

The Supreme Court on Monday transferred the Kathua gang rape and murder case outside Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab even as it ruled out a CBI probe.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra ordered an in-camera hearing of the case and said the trial should be conducted on a day-to-day basis to avoid delay.

The Jammu and Kashmir government was given the liberty to appoint its own public prosecutor to conduct the trial.

SC ordered the district and sessions judge to personally undertake trial proceedings and not assign it to any other judge. It directed there should be no break between examination and cross-examination of the witnesses, who will be provided police protection by state government when they travel to Pathankot. The bench also ruled that the top court would monitor the case and that no court, except the SC, will hear any petition related to it.

The order came on the petition filed by the murdered girl’s father seeking the transfer of the case because of a threat to the family, their friends and their lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat. Lawyers in Kathua had allegedly stopped the police from filing the charge sheet against eight accused before the magistrate court, forcing the officials to approach the judge at his residence. SC said the trial would be in accordance with the provisions of Ranbir Penal Code, applicable in J&K. The state was directed to translate statements and records of the case from Urdu to English. Security will continue to be provided to the victim’s family, their lawyer, witnesses and all accused, including a juvenile, the court said. The court transferred the case despite the accused and the state objecting to it. Gopal Subramanium, senior advocate and solicitor general during the UPA regime, appeared for PDP-BJP government in J&K. He assured the court that the state was only concerned with investigation and fair trial. The top court said it will not look into the plea for a CBI probe, as demanded by the accused, and fixed July 9 to hear the matter again. The apex court said the trial must be fair to the victim’s family and accused.

The victim, an eight-year-old girl from a nomadic community, had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in the Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.

SC considered several options within J&K before transferring the trial out of the state. Udhampur, Jammu, Ramban and Sambha were some of the places discussed. The petitioner was not in favour of any other place except Ramban. However, the choice of Ramban was shot down by the accused who claimed the situation there is not conducive to a fair trial since the place is dominated by “another community”.

SC had last week issued a stern warning and said it would transfer the case from the local court at the “slightest hint” of a lack of fair trial, saying the “real concern” was to hold proper prosecution.

The state police’s Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed the main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in Kathua last week. The charge sheet has revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.

First Published: May 07, 2018 15:27 IST