PATHANKOT (Punjab): Seventeen months after the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Jammu’s Kathua region shook India’s consciousness, a special court in Pathankot on Monday awarded life imprisonment to three of the main convicts.
In all, six of the seven accused were convicted under several provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), which applies in J&K. Pathankot District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh acquitted one of them, giving him the benefit of doubt.
Sanji Ram, the mastermind and caretaker of the temple where the crime took place in January last year, Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Officer, and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian — the three main accused — were sentenced to life for various offences, including criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gang-rape, destruction of evidence and drugging the Bakarwal girl.
By life term, the court meant the three will be in jail till the end of their natural life, the verdict underlined.
They were also awarded different jail terms for various offences under the RPC, which will run concurrently with the life term.
The other three accused — Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and Special Police Officer Surender Verma — were convicted for destruction of evidence and handed down five years in jail and `50,000 penalty each.The plea of the eighth accused, who claimed he was a juvenile when the crime was committed, is pending before the J&K High Court. He is Ram’s nephew.
Writing the order that exceeded 400 pages, the judge cited a couplet mentioned in a Supreme Court ruling in 2011: “Pinha tha daam-e-sakht qareeb aashiyaan ke, Udhne hi na paaye the ki giraftaar hum hue. (Near the nest of a bird there was a hunter’s net and the young chick was caught in it before it could take its first flight).
“Under a criminal conspiracy, an innocent eight-year-old minor girl has been kidnapped, wrongfully confined, drugged, raped and ultimately murdered. The perpetrators of this crime have acted in such a manner as if there is a ‘law of jungle’ prevalent in the society,” the order read.
“...the hair strands of the victim were recovered from inside devasthan. This fact coupled with other evidence on record certainly leads to an inference that the victim after her kidnapping was confined indeed in the devasthan,” the judge said.
Soon after the verdict, defence counsel A K Sawhney said he will file an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.