The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Jammu and Kashmir government’s reply on a plea, filed by the father of the eight-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in Kathua, for transfer of the trial to Chandigarh. It also asked the state to provide security to two lawyers who are assisting the victim’s family.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, which heard the plea filed by the girl’s biological father, also said it was not concerned, at this stage, about the demands for transferring the investigation from the state police to CBI.
“Ordinarily, police is the authority for investigation. A case has to be made out that it (investigation) is not going in the right manner. In the absence of that, as presently advised, we are not entering into that,” the bench told Senior Advocate and National Panthers Party Chief Patron Bhim Singh, who sought to intervene in the matter.
Taking note of submissions that two lawyers — Talib Hussain and Deepika S Rajawat — apprehended threats to their lives, the court asked the state government to provide security to them. On the demand that the victim’s family be given security too, the state said five police personnel had already been deputed. The court then directed that the protection be continued.
“As an interim measure, it is directed that the respondent state shall keep the security, as provided to the family members of the victim, in continuity; provide security to Ms Deepika Singh Rajawat and her family members; and that protection shall be provided to Mr Talib Hussain, who is assisting the victim’s family in prosecution of the grievance by remaining present in the Court or engaging counsel to assist the public prosecutor,” the court ordered.
The bench also directed the state police to do what was needed to strengthen security at the observation home where the juvenile accused, detained in connection with the case, is lodged.
Appearing for the girl’s biological father, Advocate Indira Jaising said the trial in the case should be transferred to Chandigarh as “the atmosphere” in Kathua “is highly polarised” and hence “a fair trial will not be possible” there.
She said there was interference from the lawyers, and police had said they had obstructed filing of chargesheet. A woman police officer who was part of the investigation had said that she was asked to give up the case, she submitted. There was “direct attack on the counsel of the father”, Jaising said, and added that the petition had suggested Chandigarh only due to its proximity.
Bhim Singh opposed the contention that the lawyers were threatened and said an entire community was being demonised. He said the case should be handed over to an independent agency like the CBI, as questions have been raised about the police investigation.
“We will not go by this…We will go by basic rules of fair trial and victim protection,” the court said.
Saying that the demand for transferring the case to the CBI was “atrocious”, Jaising said the J&K police had done an “excellent job” in the investigation. “Every accused had been identified visually and scientifically,” she said, as she requested the court to monitor the case to avoid allegations of foul play. Police have already filed the chargesheet and indicated that a supplementary chargesheet may be filed, she said.
The eight-year-old girl had gone missing from near her home in the forests in Kathua on January 10. Her body was found in the area a week later. The J&K Police Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed a chargesheet against seven persons and a separate chargesheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district.