A battery of at least 31 lawyers from Pathankot and Jammu were present to defend the seven accused men in the Kathua rape case on Thursday during first hearing of the day-to-day trial which began at the Judicial Court Complex here on Thursday with the production of accused persons before the court of Pathankot District and Sessions Judge.
During the in-camera trial, which began around 10:45 AM and continued till 3 PM in the afternoon, the prosecution on Thursday moved an application seeking directions for keeping the accused persons in Pathankot District Jail during the pendency of trial which was strongly objected by the defence counsels who have said there is no Supreme Court order for the transfer of accused.
District and Sessions Dr. Tejwinder Singh has sought a response from the Punjab government and also asked the counsels of the accused persons to submit their response on June 4 for a decision on the matter. The accused persons were taken back to Kathua District Jail in the afternoon.
Sources said at least 15 advocates representing the accused are on record of the court while as the rest are assisting the arguing counsels. Among the counsels representing the accused is the senior lawyer from Jammu AK Sawhney for accused Tilak Raj and advocate H S Pathania who is representing the accused Sanji Ram, his son Vishal Jangotra and Parvesh Kumar. There are at least six senior lawyers on the side of defence, sources said.
The hearing was held amid a tight security around the court complex and the courtroom. The entries to the coutroom were blocked by the police and only lawyers connected with the case were allowed inside. Special Security Group (SSG) of Punjab Police also remained deployed at the court complex during the hearing. A CCTV Van also remained present during the day. Policemen were seen in riot gear and the detection dogs were also kept in the court complex to prevent any untoward incident.
A team of counsels representing the biological father of the victim on Thursday sought permission to represent the family in the case but had to return after their presence was objected by the accused parties who argued that the biological father is not the complainant in the case. The Court has asked the counsels to appear along with the complainant, who is the foster father of the victim, for a decision on the matter on June 4.
The Court also has directed the Prosecution to complete the translation of the case documents and handover them to the accused parties on June 4. Sources said more than 50 percent of the documents inlcuding the chargesheet which are in Urdu have been translated so far.
Special Public Prosecutor Santokh Singh Basra, who has been specially appointed by J&K government for the case, on Thursday began the arguments on framing of charges against the accused. The prosecution will continue to present its side on Friday, when the case will be taken up for hearing at 12 noon, after which the accused parties will present their arguments.
There are 221 witnesses in the case and it is learnt that the Court is likely to conduct examination of five witnesses on each hearing in compliance of the Supreme Court directive to conduct a speedy trial of the case.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Akansha College Mirapur Uttar Pradesh R P Singh is learnt to have moved a plea for anticipatory bail in the case. Though he is not an accused in the rape case, the J&K Crime Branch in the chargesheet has said that he helped the accused Vishal Jangotra – a student at the college – “to create an alibi by resorting to manipulation of records and creation of false evidence”. The pre-arrest bail plea also has been listed for June 4.
There are eight accused in the case: former revenue official Sanji Ram, Special Police Officers Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, Parvesh Kumar, Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra and a juvenile, who is nephew of Ram. Two police officers – Head Constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutt are accused of destroying crucial evidence in the case.