SRI NAGAR:The Jammu and Kashmir government has drawn flak for appointing Advocate Aseem Sawhney, who represented the accused in the Kathua gang rape and murder case, as Additional Advocate General (AAG) of the state.The Governor’s administration accepted the resignation tendered by law officers appointed by the PDP-BJP coalition government and appointed Additional Advocates General, Deputy Advocates General and government advocates. Sawhney was the surprise inclusion in the list.
The abduction, rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomad girl in Rasana village of Kathua in January this year caused national outrage.
The Crime Branch of J&K Police, which probed the case, presented the charge sheet against eight people, including a former revenue official, his son, nephew and four policemen.The Crime Branch, during its investigation, found that the rape and murder of the minor girl was committed as part of a conspiracy to evict the nomad population from the village.
Advocate Sawhney was counsel of one of the accused, Tilak Raj (a policeman).The appointment of Sawhney as AAG evoked strong criticism from state’s two former chief ministers.Former CM and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah termed the decision as both inexplicable and worrisome.
He, however, said if the victim’s lawyer was not unduly concerned by this development, “The rest of us should just let her get on with the job of ensuring justice for the young victim.”Former CM and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said it was ironic that a day after celebrating World Day for International Justice, the defence counsel in the horrific rape and murder case had been appointed as AAG.
“Rewarding those who defend alleged murderers and rapists is abhorrent and a shocking violation of the spirit of justice. Such a move will only serve to encourage the rape culture rampant in our society,” she said.
Defending his decision to fight Kathua case, Advocate Sawhney told TNIE, “Should lawyers then stop defending militants, Ajmal, Kasab, Naved or controversial cases as it would jeopardise their career? Point to ponder,” he said.
Asked whether he would disassociate from the case, Sawhney said, “As a law officer for state, I have to dissociate from all cases against government including this one.”
Political analyst Aadil Ahmad said it was unfortunate that the Governor had promoted Sawhney to a key position to defend the government as the signal had gone out that Sawhney was promoted for defending the Kathua rape and murder accused.