Two prime accused in the Kathua gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl today told the Supreme Court that the probe in the case should be handed over to the CBI so that justice can be meted out to the victim. They also opposed a plea seeking transfer of trial to Chandigarh.
Sanji Ram and Vishal Jangotra, who were chargesheeted by the crime branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police in the case, claimed that the police had miserably failed to conduct a “fair and effective” probe and alleged that “tainted” officers were part of special investigation team (SIT) which probed the matter.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, the accused have opposed the plea of the victim’s father seeking transfer of trial from Kathua to Chandigarh, saying there were 221 prosecution witnesses in the case and it would be “impossible” for them to attend court proceedings at Chandigarh, which is approximately 265 Km from Kathua.
“In the interest of justice and fair play, the investigation so far carried out is shrouded with mystery. The investigation has been carried out by tainted officers of the Crime Branch, Kashmir and there are lacunas in the investigation resulting in miscarriage of justice,” the affidavit claimed.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had on April 27 stayed till May 7 the trial in the case, after being seized with petitions seeking shifting of the trial to Chandigarh and handing over the investigation to the CBI.
The accused have further said in the affidavit that the probe “be handed over to CBI or any other independent agency to unearth the real picture for giving justice to the victim and the accused persons”.
Referring to several judgements delivered by the apex court, the affidavit said these showed that “the rule of law must prevail and every one shall get a fair trial” which included the accused and the complainant also.
The accused, while alleging that they have been falsely implicated, claimed that family members of victim have no threat and there was not a “whisper of evidence” about this. The affidavit also said that providing security to the family members and advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat, who appeared for the victim’s family before the high court there, was an “abuse of process of law”.
It said that Rajawat’s allegations that she was obstructed and threatened when she appeared for the family before the high court, has been denied by the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association in an affidavit filed in the top court. It also sought vacation of order granting security to Rajawat and another person, who claims to be the friend of victim’s family.
The accused have also said that investigation in the case must be “fair, transparent and judicious” and probe agency cannot be allowed to conduct the probe in a tainted and biased manner.
“The convenience of the complainant cannot be the sole consideration for transferring a criminal case out of state. Courts have to consider the convenience of the accused, prosecution witnesses and larger interest of the society,” it said, adding there was no apprehension of any threat to the witnesses.
They have sought a CBI probe in the matter claiming that the victim’s age has not been ascertained by the police and the statement of her father was also not recorded. They claimed that “tutored and coerced” statements of some witnesses were recorded but they later retracted.
The affidavit alleged that a rape case was lodged against a Deputy Superintendent of Police, who is a member of the SIT, in 2007 and the matter was pending before the court and another inspector in the team also had a graft case registered against him.
The state government had earlier opposed the prayer for a CBI probe and told the apex court that 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.
On April 13, the apex court had taken a serious note of lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the case and initiated a case on its own saying such impeding of the process of law “affects the delivery of justice”.
The minor girl had disappeared from near her home in the forests next to Rasana village in Kathua, on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
The state police’s Crime Branch has filed the main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district. It revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.