The Kathua case should be a template for these cases: solid investigation and the delivery of justice within a specific time-frame are critical; it is equally important for political parties to desist from politicising such cases.

A fast-track court on Monday convicted six people for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district last year. Three have been sentenced to life in jail. The other three have got five years for destroying evidence to shield the rapists. A seventh accused was acquitted by the court which gave him the “benefit of doubt”.

The girl, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic community (the Bakarwals), had been sedated and raped repeatedly for four days, and later strangled and bludgeoned to make sure she was dead. The rape-and-murder strategy was probably planned and deliberate, part of a larger plan to drive out the minority nomadic community from their land. The tension between the Bakarwals and Rasana Hindus was so strong that the latter opposed the burial of the girl in the locality, saying the property never belonged to the nomadic family and that they had been burying their dead illegally there all these years.

The Kathua rape case also drove a wedge between the then BJP-Peoples’ Democratic Party alliance in Jammu and Kashmir after two BJP leaders participated in a rally organised in support of the accused. Realising that there might be a miscarriage of justice in such a charged atmosphere, the Supreme Court correctly shifted the case from Kathua to Pathankot in Punjab, thereby assuring the parents of the girl and other citizens concerned that no matter what the economic and social standing of girl’s parents is, the legal system will stand by the truth and justice will be delivered.

The Special Investigation Team of the Jammu and Kashmir Police too did a commendable job: they conducted a thoroughly professional investigation and presented a detailed charge-sheet to the court. This was not easy because the local police had been bribed by one of the convicts to tamper with evidence; they had even washed the young victim’s clothes to destroy material evidence.

In the last few weeks, there has been a spate of heinous crimes, especially rapes, with the victims being minor girls from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Kathua case should be a template for these cases: solid investigation and the delivery of justice within a specific time-frame are critical; it is equally important for political parties to desist from politicising such cases.

3 men sentenced to life for rape, murder of 8-year-old Kathua girl

Sanji Ram, a retired revenue department official, Deepak Khajuria, a special police officer and Parvesh Kumar have been awarded the life imprisonment.

gang-rape,murder,rapists

Sanji Ram, one of the six men convicted in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir.(Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times)

Three men convicted for gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua were on Monday sentenced to life in jail. A Pathankot court, which had convicted six people a few hours earlier, sentenced three others to five years for destroying evidence to shield the rapists.

Sanji Ram, a retired revenue department official, Deepak Khajuria, a special police officer and Parvesh Kumar have been spared the death penalty that prosecutors had asked for and ruled that they would spend their life behind bars. Parvesh Kumar is the friend of the eighth accused named by Jammu and Kashmir’s Crime Branch for kidnapping the girl and her gang-rape.

Police officials Tilak Raj, Anand Dutta and Surender Verma have been sentenced to five years under section 201 of the Ranbir Penal Code (as Jammu and Kashmir’s penal code is known) for destruction of evidence.

A seventh accused, Vishal – son of main accused Sanji Ram – was acquitted by the court, giving him the ‘benefit of doubt’, said Farooqi Khan, who represented the victim’s family in the court.

The eighth accused, reported to be a juvenile, was not put on trial because the high court is yet to rule on a petition about his age.

The horrific rape, which had polarised the state socially, politically and on communal lines, had brought the BJP-PDP coalition close to a breaking point when several BJP leaders demanded a CBI probe after the accused were arrested by the crime branch.

Two BJP ministers in the erstwhile Mehbooba Mufti government – Chandra Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh – also had to quit for their open support to the accused.

Former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have welcomed the convictions on Monday and took a hard swipe at BJP leaders who backed the effort to run down the police probe.

Abdullah, without naming the BJP, said no words of condemnation are enough to those politicians who defended the accused and vilified the victim. Mehbooba Mufti said: “High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8 year old child was drugged, raped repeatedly & then bludgeoned to death.”

Sanji Ram, a retired revenue department official, was the key plotter. According to the police, he wanted to drive the nomadic Bakarwal community from his native Rasana village and incited his nephew to abduct the girl. His son, Vishal, has been acquitted.Read More| ‘Happy little soul got justice’, says ex-cop who probed Kathua rape, murder

The girl, kidnapped as part of a strategy to drive out the minority nomadic community from the area in January 2018, had been overdosed with a cocktail of sedatives through her captivity and raped repeatedly. Four days later, she was strangled and then bludgeoned with a stone to make sure she was dead.

The trial was shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir to a special court in Punjab’s Pathankot on the orders of the Supreme Court. The girl’s parents had approached the top court to get the case transferred out of the state because they feared for the lives of the family, friends and witnesses.

HT