The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Jammu and Kashmir police to file its supplementary chargesheet in the Kathua gangrape and murder case within eight weeks and ordered shifting of the seven accused in the case to Punjab’s Gurdaspur District jail from Jammu’s Kathua jail.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra brushed aside the objections of the counsel appearing for the accused and said their transfer was being done in view of the “exceptional circumstances”.
The apex court had earlier shifted the trial in the case, which had triggered widespread outrage, from Kathua to Pathankot on May 7.
The bench also accepted a status report in the case filed by the J&K government. It directed that the report be kept in a sealed cover after the state said certain points highlighted in it required to be investigated.
The court also directed that adequate security be provided to the trial court judge and public prosecutor in the case.
Modifying its earlier direction that no court will entertain any petition regarding the case, the top court said petitioners could approach the High Court if they were aggrieved by any order of the trial court.
It also directed the district and sessions court judge at Pathankot to observe full-court in-camera trial in which only the judge, the lawyers representing the accused, public prosecutors and court staff will be present during the proceedings.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who is representing the Centre, opposed the transfer of the accused from Kathua district jail to Gurdaspur.
“The accused have to be served a notice before shifting them to some other jail. There are judgments of apex court in this regard. This can’t be done straightaway. They need to be given a chance to present their case,” Singh said.
The counsel for some of the accused said it will be difficult for the family members of the accused to visit Gurdaspur.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who is appearing for the father of the victim, had urged that the accused be shifted to Gurdaspur from Kathua district jail due to inadequate security on the jail premises.
Claiming that a “systematic campaign” was underway to show that those accused in the case were innocent and that the crime was committed by “jihadists”, Jaising said one “cannot run a parallel trial outside the court professing innocence” and that accused should defend their case in the court.
She also requested those whose indulging in such campaigns be restrained, but the apex court declined to get into it.
The victim, an eight-year-old girl from a minority nomadic community, had disappeared from near her home in a village close to Kathua in the Jammu region on January 10.
Her body was found in the same area a week later. The state police filed the main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate chargesheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district.