SRINAGAR—Hopes for justice have rekindled after the Supreme Court ordered trying the juvenile accused in Kathua gang rape and murder as an adult.
The Supreme Court set aside the court order against Shubam Sangra and ordered the retrial of the accused as an adult.
A bench of justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice J B Pardiwala said though there was a “clear and unambiguous case in favour of the accused person’s juvenility on the basis of his birth certificate and school records, he cannot take shelter under such documents when a heinous crime has been committed”.
On January 10, 2018, the girl was abducted and raped in a small village temple after being kept sedated for four days. The child’s mutilated body was found in a forest area on January 17.
Investigations revealed that she was drugged, starved, and repeatedly raped for days. Later, she was strangulated and her head was smashed by a rock.
Crime Branch had filed a charge sheet against eight people including Sanjhi Ram, a retired revenue official and the alleged mastermind of the crime, his son Vishal Jangotra and his nephew who is a juvenile. Other accused include Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Special Police Officers (SPOs) Deepak Kumar Khajuria alias Deepu and Surinder Kumar, Sub Inspector of Hiranangar police station Anand Dutta, and Head Constable Tilak Raj.
A special fast-track court convicted six accused and acquitted Vishal in the Kathua rape and murder case. Three of the accused were given a life sentence and others were given five years imprisonment.
Soon after the verdict, the victim’s father said the family has gone through a difficult phase after Hindu Ekta Manch rallied for the accused last year. “They branded us, Pakistani sympathizers. Often our men were threatened. They did not allow us to graze our cattle in the area. We had to shift from Rasana after the incident. They have socially boycotted us. They are angry with us for raising our voice against the rape and murder of my daughter,” he said.
The lawyer for the victim’s family, Mubeen Farooqi, told a news agency that the trial should take place in Punjab as was done for the other accused and not anywhere else. If needed, they will approach the Supreme Court again to get clarity on this issue.
Farooqi cited the 2018 order of the Supreme Court under which the trial of the case was transferred to Pathankot in Punjab and a day-to-day hearing was ordered after some lawyers in Kathua had prevented the Crime Branch officials from filing a charge sheet.
“Now this is clear that the trial of the case has to be held in Pathankot only and if need be, we will approach the Supreme Court again to get clarity on this issue,” he said.
The three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by the then chief justice Dipak Misra had ordered shifting of the trial from Kathua and made it clear that the District and Sessions Judge of Pathankot shall himself take up the trial and not assign it to any additional judge.
Besides ordering daily in-camera hearings, the bench, which also comprised Justice D Y Chandrachud, who is now the Chief Justice of India, and Justice Indu Malhotra, had made it clear that “as this court (Supreme Court) is monitoring the matter, no court shall entertain any petition pertaining to the case.”
“Though the apex court in 2018 gave all protection to Sangra, who was treated as a juvenile at that time, things have changed after Wednesday’s order. Hence, the trial should start at Pathankot only,” Farooqi said.