Only the lawyers representing the accused in the brutal Kathua rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl will be allowed inside the district and session court at Pathankot, the Supreme Court said on Monday.
The direction came after the counsel of Jammu and Kashmir informed a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that as many as seven lawyers each were accompanying the accused inside the courtroom.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade and standing counsel Shoeb Alam, who submitted a status report to the court in a sealed cover, also alleged that the presence of so many lawyers on behalf of the accused was detrimental to a fair trial as witnesses who were appearing before the judge for recording their statements were feeling threatened. They said, at a given time, there were nearly 50 lawyers present in the courtroom to defend the accused in the case.
“We request the court to allow recording of statement and cross-examination of accused through video-conferencing. Otherwise, the motive of in-camera trial gets defeated,” Naphade said. The apex court directed the district and sessions judge to observe “full court” in-camera trial during the hearing, in which only one lawyer representing the accused, special public prosecutor and public prosecutors and the court staff will be present in the courtroom. The bench, however, said there was no need for recording the statements and cross-examination of the accused through video conferencing.
There are eight accused in the case, including one Sanji Ram, who is alleged to be the main culprit who had ordered kidnapping and murder of the girl belonging to the nomadic community.
The others are his son Vishal, his juvenile nephew, two special police officers including Deepak Khajuria alias ‘Deepu’, Parvesh Kumar alias ‘Mannu’ and two police officers who had allegedly destroyed the evidence in the case.