The trial in the horrendous Kathua rape and murder case began on Monday, with the eight accused pleading not guilty and asking Principal Sessions Court judge Sanjay Gupta for a narco analysis test.
Seven of the eight accused were produced before District and Sessions Judge Sanjeev Gupta, who asked the state Crime Branch to give them copies of the chargesheet and fixed April 28 as the next date of hearing.
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The eighth accused is a juvenile who moved a bail application before the chief judicial magistrate. The matter was posted for April 26.
The child from a minority nomadic community was allegedly held in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district for a week in January this year during which she was kept sedated and sexually assaulted before being bludgeoned to death.
According to the chargesheets filed by the Crime Branch, the abduction, rape and killing of the girl was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the nomadic community from the area. A separate chargesheet was filed for the juvenile.
The counsel for the accused demanded a copy of the chargesheet filed by the Crime Branch on April 9 before the chief judicial magistrate.
Later talking to reporters, Ankur Sharma, counsel for accused Sanji Ram, his son and others, said that the lawyers raised the issue with the judge for providing copies of charge sheets.
Another lawyer A K Sawahney, who is pleading the case of police constable Tilak Raj for destruction of evidence, said that while the chief minister was talking about fast-track trial, challan copies had not been provided to them till today.
Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the 'devisthan' (temple) in the village in Kathua, about 90 km from Jammu, is listed as the main conspirator behind the crime, told the judge that they wanted narco analysis test and were ready for it.
In a narco analysis test, the subject is injected with sodium pentothal or sodium amytal. The dose is dependent on the person's sex, age, health and physical condition.
It does not have any legal sanctity as evidence until a court gives permission to conduct these tests. The test only helps as corroborative and not as primary evidence, say legal experts.
After a brief hearing in the sessions court during which the public prosecutor assured of handing over the chargesheet tomorrow, the seven accused were shifted back to the jail under heavy security.
Special police officer Deepak Khajuria, who is alleged to have repeatedly raped the child, told reporters from the police van that he was also demanding a a narco test, also known as the "truth test", and a CBI probe.
As the trial began inside the court, main accused Sanji Ram's daughter Madhu Sharma protested outside, demanding a CBI probe.
There was heavy police presence at the Kathua complex following the tension on April 9 when members of the local bar association did not allow the Crime Branch to submit its chargesheet in the case.
The chargesheet also names the investigating officers -- head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta -- who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
A large number of people assembled on the road leading to the court, blocked it and held protests against a section of national media accusing it of "portraying" the demand for a CBI probe as pro-rapists and pro-culprits, thereby damaging the reputation of the entire village.
Supreme Court doesn’t favour CBI probe into case
The Supreme Court did not favour handing over the investigation into the rape-and-murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua from the crime branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police to the CBI as her father expressed satisfaction over the investigation carried out so far.
"In the absence of any allegation, why should we enter into this as to who should investigate," a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra said, adding that it was "the primary duty of the state police to investigate a case".
The father expressed satisfaction with the probe conducted so far by the state police, while vehemently opposing the plea of senior advocate Bhim Singh and Delhi-based lawyer Anuja Kapur that the investigation be transferred to the CBI.
"Be that as it may, we do not intend to enter into this sphere (transfer of case to CBI) at this stage," the bench said, noting the submission of the victim's father.
At the outset, the victim's counsel Indira Jaising, who mentioned the matter for an urgent hearing in the forenoon, said the "biological father" of the victim had no grievance with regard to the police probe.
"We are not seeking transfer of investigation. The issue is that the atmosphere is not conducive (at Kathua) for fair trial and dispensation of justice," she said.
"Investigation is almost complete. Charge sheet has been filed. They (police) may file a supplementary charge sheet. The father of the victim has no problem with the police investigation," she said.
"We do not want CBI investigation. I am the father. We are satisfied with the investigation. Every accused has been identified. DNA samples have been matched," the lawyer said, adding that she hailed the state police.
The Jammu Bar Association and others had demanded transfer of the case to the CBI as they had no faith in the probe carried out by the crime branch.
The crime branch submitted two charge sheets against eight people including a juvenile for allegedly raping and murdering the girl in January this year.
Meanwhile, the top court heard a petition from the lawyer representing the victim's family to have the trial held elsewhere due to fears for her safety. The top court also ordered security for the victim's family after her father said he too feared for their safety.
(With PTI inputs)