Three main accused in the gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua were on Monday sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court in Pathankot.
Sanjhi Ram, the caretaker of the temple where the crime took place, Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian, have been convicted under Ranbir Penal Code sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gangrape, destruction of evidence, drugging the victim and common intention, the lawyers said.
They have been sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs 1 lakh each for murder along with 25 years in jail for gangrape.
Three accomplices -- Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma -- who were convicted for destruction of evidence have been handed over five years imprisonment.
Pathankot District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh announced the verdict in the open court.
Ram's son Vishal is acquitted due to lack of evidence, while an accused juvenile faces a separate trial. His trial is yet to begin as a petition to determine his age is waiting judgement in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The in-camera trial in the case that shook the nation ended on June 3, when district and sessions judge Tejwinder Singh had announced that the verdict was likely to be delivered today June 10.
Elaborate security arrangements had been made in and around the court and in Kathua in view of the pronouncement of the judgement, officials said Sunday.
HERE ARE THE LATEST UPDATES ON THE HEARING:
- 04:51 pm: Quantum of sentence announced. Three -- Parvesh, Deepak Khajuria and Sanjhi Ram -- get life imprisonment. Five years in jail for three cops, accused of destroying evidence
- 12.09 pm: Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah welcome the verdict
- 12:01 pm: The court says the quantum of punishment will be announced at 2 pm
- 11.52 am: Sixth accused also held guilty by court. The convicted include mastermind Sanjhi Ram, special police officer Deepak Khajuria, Surender Verma, Anand Dutta, and Tilak Raj
Sanjhi Ram's son has been acquitted
- 11:44 am: Five accused have been convicted
- 11:38 am: The judge has started reading the verdict in the Kathua rape case. All the seven accused are present in the court room. The decision will be announcement anytime now
According to the 15-page charge sheet, the eight-year-old girl, who was kidnapped on January 10 last year, was allegedly raped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days before she was bludgeoned to death.
The day-to-day trial commenced in the first week of June last year at the district and sessions court in Pathankot in neighbouring state of Punjab, about 100 km from Jammu and 30 km from Kathua, after the Supreme Court ordered that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir.
The apex court order came after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a charge sheet in the sensational case, which shocked the nation.
The prosecution team in the case comprised J K Chopra, S S Basra and Harminder Singh.
The Crime Branch arrested village head Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, juvenile nephew and his friend Anand Dutta, and two special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma. Head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, were also arrested.
Charges of rape and murder were framed by the district and sessions judge against seven out of the eight accused. The trial against the juvenile is yet to begin as his petition on determining his age is to be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The court framed charges under the Ranbir Penal Code(RPC), including Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang-rape), according to the prosecution.
The accused, if convicted, face minimum life imprisonment and maximum death penalty.
The court also framed charges of destruction of evidence and causing hurt by poisoning under Section 328 of the RPC. The two policemen - Raj and Datta - were also charged under Section 161 (public servant taking illegal gratification) of the RPC.
All the accused, barring the juvenile, were shifted to Gurdaspur jail following an intervention by the Supreme Court which also restricted appearance of the defence lawyers and limited it to one or maximum of two per accused.
The charge sheet said the girl had gone missing while grazing horses. Investigators said the accused juvenile had abducted the girl under the pretext of helping her find her horses.
The abduction, rape and killing of the child was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, it said.
The case had become a bone of contention between the then ruling alliance partners PDP and the BJP after two ministers of the saffron party, Chowdhury Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, participated in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused arrested by the state crime branch.
(With inputs from agencies)
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