THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court on Tuesday admitted the appeal of a convict in the Kathua gangrape and murder case for further hearing, and stayed recovery of the fine during pendency of the appeal.
The convict, Tilak Raj, a former police officer, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by the Pathankot sessions court on June 10, for destruction of crucial evidence in the case.
On Tuesday, Raj’s counsel Sanjeev Patyal argued before the court of Justice Rajbir Sehrawat that Raj has been “falsely implicated and wrongly convicted” under Section 201 of the Ranbir Penal Code in the case. The trial court had also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the convict.
“The prosecution’s story is highly improbable and is a cock and bull story.The learned trial court has committed a grave legal error by convicting and sentencing the appellant,” read the appeal, adding that the conviction is “based on mere conjecture and surmises”.
In January 2018, an eight-year-old girl belonging to the Bakerwal community was raped and murdered as part of a conspiracy to “dislodge” the nomadic community from Rasana village of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district. Earlier this month, six of the seven accused were held guilty, one and half years after the crime sparked outrage in the country.
While the trial court in its verdict had said that there is no evidence on record to prove that Raj was part of the larger criminal conspiracy with the main accused to commit the offences of kidnapping, wrongful confining, drugging and then raping the minor, it ruled that the only evidence on record is of him trying to make the evidence disappear and misdirecting the investigation. The main allegation against Raj was that he had washed the clothes of the victim to destroy the evidence in an attempt to save the accused.
Submitting that there is only oral evidence against Raj in the case, his counsel further said the trial court had failed to take into consideration the defence plea that no recovery was made from him. “The findings of the trial court are based upon assumptions and presumptions and in the absence of any factual foundation proved on record as it is evident that the prosecution has failed to bring home the guilt against the present appellant,” the appeal said.
Raj’s petition against the conviction is the first one to be filed and admitted in the high court. Another convicted police officer, Anand Dutta, has also filed an appeal against his conviction in the case. However, Dutta’s appeal has not come up for hearing yet.
The convicted police officers, who have been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for destruction of evidence, are likely to soon file for suspension of their sentences during pendency of their appeal as they have already spent nearly a year and half in jail.