Kathua Case: SC directs J&K police to interrogate witnesses in presence of families

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The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Jammu and Kashmir police to interrogate witnesses in the Kathua gang-rape and murder case from a visible distance and in the presence of their family members. The court’s directive came after three witnesses in the case had alleged torture by the state police during the investigation. The Supreme Court said the witnesses were young students and should be protected.

The victim, an eight-year-old girl belonging to a nomadic community, had gone missing from her home near Kathua on January 10. A week later her body was found in the area. The police filed the main charge sheet against seven people as well as a separate charge sheet against a juvenile.

On May 7, the apex court transferred the trial from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot, Punjab. But the court refused to hand over the investigation to the CBI, as demanded by the accused.

The students, who are between the ages of 18 and 22 years, were made witnesses by the police over the whereabouts of Vishal Jangotra, one of the accused.

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Lawyer Ravi Sharma, who represents the students Sachin Sharma, Sahil Sharma and Neeraj Sharma, told the court on Wednesday that all three hailed from Jammu region and they and their families were being threatened.

The SC bench, however, disagreed with the students’ demand that further questioning should be video recorded.

Earlier this week, state BJP leader Lal Singh reiterated his demand for a CBI probe into the incident, alleging there was a “conspiracy” to defame the people of Jammu.