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Kathua rape: Lawyers protest against filing of charge sheet by J&K Crime Branch

By NL Team

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On Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch submitted a charge sheet against the seven accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakharwal girl from Kathua.

On January 17, the body of the child was recovered from the Rassana forest in Kathua. She had been missing for one week. Over the last few months, after it was found that she was raped before being murdered, the entire case has snowballed into a high-tension political controversy.

Initially, a 15-year-old boy was arrested for holding her hostage in a cowshed and raping her for a week. When protests and pressure grew on the streets and in the Assembly, on January 23, the state government handed over the case to the Crime Branch.

So far, the Crime Branch has arrested eight people in the case, including the alleged mastermind identified as Sanji Ram and his son.

Nevertheless, yesterday when a team from the Crime Branch arrived at the Court to produce a challan against the seven out of the eight accused in the case, lawyers attempted to prevent the submission. They staged a protest against the filing of the charge sheet in the Court of Judicial Magistrate Kathua, reported Greater Kashmir.

IGP Crime Branch Syed Afhad-ul-Mujtaba, however, confirmed to GK that the charge sheet was later submitted. “Court has also ordered shifting of the accused to prison,” Mujtaba said.

According to The Hindu, the seven accused have been charged under Sections 302, 376, 201 and 120-B of the Ranbir Penal Code. The Crime Branch identified them as – a retired government official, Sanjhi Ram; his son Vishal, a minor, Special Police Officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma; head constable Tilak Raj; sub-inspector Anand Dutta; and a civilian, Parvesh Kumar.

Sanjhi Ram, is a retired revenue officer and custodian of the Devasthan temple where the girl was held captive and raped for a week.

On Monday, the Jammu High Court Bar Association (JHCBA) called for a general strike for various demands they have been making including the deportation of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi nationals from the Jammu region. Since April 4, the association has also been protesting against the handing over of the Kathua rape-and-murder case to CBI and demanded clarity of the state’s stance on tribal affairs.

“Pursuant to our meeting with civil society and leaders of different political parties on Saturday, we decided to observe a general strike on April 11 in entire Jammu region in support of the demand for eviction of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi nationals,” said JHCBA president BS Slathia as reported by the State Times.

According to a Press Trust of India copy in Business Standard, The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) accused the Mehbooba Mufti-led of failing to conduct a fair and transparent investigation. Calling it an “unholy alliance”, the party said the PDP-BJP government was trying to score political gains. Accusing the BJP of “bowing down” before its ally and failing to provide justice to the people of Jammu, the party asked BJP ministers to resign immediately “as they have lost the moral right to continue in the office”. Interestingly, in the case of Rohingyas in Jammu, the J&K National Panthers Party joined hands with the BJP in support of their deportation.

The case has been widely reported in the dailies published in J&K. While most national dailies, covered yesterday’s development in their inside pages, Times of India mentioned it on their front page. The news hasn’t yet sparked a prime-time debate.

Update

On Tuesday, the J&K police registered an FIR against the lawyers for obstructing Crime Branch from filing charge sheet in the rape and murder case, reported Rising Kashmir. “Yes, we have lodged an FIR and action will be taken against them,” said DGP SP Vaid.  However, he also added that it was unfortunate that some people were trying to give it religious and regional tone.

Omar Abdullah welcomed this move by tweeting “Good. Lawyers who have no respect for the law deserve to have the full weight of the law books crash down on them”

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