All the eight people accused in the Kathua gangrape and murder case pleaded not guilty in the Jammu and Kashmir Sessions court on Monday and asked the judge for a narco test. The court asked the state Crime Branch to give copies of the chargesheet to the accused and fixed April 28 as the next date of hearing. While seven accused were presented before the district and sessions judge Sanjay Gupta, the juvenile arrested in the case – the trial of which began today – moved a bail application before the judicial magistrate, which will be heard later in the day.
The accused allegedly held the eight-year-old girl, belonging to the Bakherwal community, in a small village temple in Kathua district for a week during which she was sedated and sexually assaulted and was murdered later. The abduction, rape and killing of the minor was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, according to the chargesheets filed by the crime branch. A separate chargesheet was filed for the juvenile.
Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the ‘devisthan’ in a village in Kathua, about 90 km from Jammu, is listed as the main conspirator behind the crime. He was allegedly joined by special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, and his son Vishal Jangotra alias “Shamma”. The chargesheet also names investigating officers head constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence. Follow Kathua rape-murder case LIVE UPDATES
As the trial began inside the court, Ram’s daughter Madhu Sharma protested outside, demanding a CBI probe.
The issue of providing the accused copies of the “challan”, or the chargesheet, was raised before the judge by the lawyers, Ankush Sharma, who is pleading the case for Sanji Ram, his son and others, was quoted as saying by PTI. He said the chargesheet was presented in court on April 9 but copies had not yet been provided. Ram told the judge that they wanted narco tests and were ready for them.
The judge asked the accused whether they had been given copies of the chargesheet, which runs into 400 pages, added A K Sawahney, who is representing head constable Tilak Raj.
He told reporters that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had been talking about a fast track trial but copies of the chargesheet had still not been provided to them.
The Jammu and Kashmir government had appointed two special public prosecutors, both Sikhs, to ensure “neutrality” in the sensitive case, keeping in view the Hindu-Muslim polarisation over the case.
(With inputs from PTI)