- Kathua rape and murder case: Jammu lawyers suspend agitation, resume work
- All eight Kathua rape and murder accused plead not guilty in trial court, ask for narco test
- Kathua rape and murder case: Victim’s family warns of agitation if CBI probe is ordered
- Kathua rape and murder case: Hang my daughter’s rapists. Don’t spare the juvenile either. Keep CBI out of it.
- Panel formed to probe Jammu lawyers' conduct in Kathua rape and murder case
- I may get raped, I can be killed: Kathua rape victim's lawyer
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to provide security to the family members of the eight-year-old girl, who was brutally gang-raped and murdered at Kathua in the state, along with their lawyer and a friend assisting them in pursuing the case.
The top court also took note of the victim's father's plea seeking transfer of the trial of the case from Kathua, preferably to Chandigarh, and sought the state government's response.
The minor girl was allegedly held in captivity in a small village temple in the Kathua district of Jammu region by the eight accused for a week, during which she was kept sedated and raped several times before being beaten to death.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra considered the submission of senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the victim's father, that his family, their lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat and their friend Talib Hussain, feared for their lives in a communally "polarised situation" at Kathua.
"As an interim measure, it is directed that the Jammu and Kashmir government will beef up security to the family and others and provide security to them," the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
The court made clear that it would "go by the concept of fair trial and victim protection" and said that ordinarily, it was the duty of the police to probe a case.
It considered the plea that security personnel, who will guard the family members, their lawyer and the family friend, should be in plain clothes.
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 lawyer Anuja Kapur that the investigation be transferred to 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.
Jaising pleaded that the trial should be transferred from Kathua to a local court outside the state, preferably in Chandigarh, as the situation there was "surcharged and polarised" and moreover, there has been non-cooperation from the local bar.
The bench asked the state government, represented by lawyer Shoeb Alam, to file a response to the plea seeking transfer of trial and fixed the matter for further hearing on April 27.
"I will have to be heard on this aspect (transfer of trial ). I am grateful to the counsel for petitioner who has reposed faith in the scientific and thorough investigation conducted by police," Alam said.
The bench also directed the state police to provide adequate security to the juvenile delinquent, who has been picked up in connection with the case and kept at an observation home.
At the outset, 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, adding the prayer regarding the transfer of the case outside the state and Chandigarh has been mentioned due to physical proximity from Kathua.
She referred to the affidavits of the local lawyer and the family friend to highlight the threats being faced by them in pursuing the case at the local court and cited an incident when policemen had to face protests while filing the charge sheet before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua.
The bench made it clear that it would confine itself only to the safety and security aspect at the moment.
"Suppose, we transfer the case to some other court, even then the investigation will continue," the bench said, adding it was "the primary duty of the state police to investigate a case".
"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.
During the hearing, it was clarified that the petition was filed by the victim's father and Delhi-based lawyer Anuja Kapur.
The top court had on April 13 taken strong note of some lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the gangrape-cum-murder case and initiated a case on its own, saying such impediment "affects the dispensation of justice and would amount to obstruction of access to justice".
It had said it is a settled law that a lawyer who appears for a victim or accused cannot be prevented by any bar association or group of lawyers, for it is his duty to appear in support of his client.
The minor girl had disappeared from near her home in the forests of Kathua on January 10.
Her body was found in the same area a week later.
The Crime Branch of police which probed the case filed the main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district.
Jammu has been on tenterhooks since the brutal incident, with bar associations and a section of people opposing the action against the accused.