Minor Or Not? HC Decision On Juvenile Likely Next Week

JAMMU — The fate of the juvenile accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua will be likely decided next week by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court with the Crime Branch moving a petition to contest that he is a minor, officials said today. 

A decision on the petition, which will be heard early next week, will give clarity on whether his case will be heard along with the seven other accused before the Pathankot district and sessions judge or continue to be tried by the Juvenile Board in Kathua.

"The police has conducted a thorough probe and also carried out medical tests on the accused. The reports suggest his age to be in the 19-23 age bracket," said a senior official of the state law department.

He said all the evidence collected in the case was the same for all the accused. 

"We cannot make a witness depose twice -- once in Pathankot and the second time before the Juvenile Board. The clarity is important," the official said.

The case was transferred out of Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot following a petition moved by the victim's family, which pressed for a fair trial and cited the hostile attitude of the Kathua Bar Association that had tried to prevent Crime Branch officials from filing the charge sheet.

On May 7, a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra transferred the case to the district and sessions judge in Pathankot and directed it to hold in-camera day to day trial.

In its nine-page order, the bench had said, "The juvenile, who is facing the trial, shall be dealt with in accordance with law and he should be given all special care and protection as per the command of the law."

The juvenile had allegedly kidnapped the girl on January 10 on directions of his uncle Sanji Ram, who is the brain behind her abduction and killing. 

The minor along with Vishal, son of Sanji Ram, and special police officer Deepak Khajuria, alias 'Deepu', had raped her repeatedly for four days before killing her on January 14 and dumping her body in the jungle, the charge sheet said.

Meerut Varsity Official Seeks Bail  

The head of a Meerut college who is alleged to have taken money from the main accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua today moved an anticipatory bail application before the district and sessions judge here.

The judge admitted R P Singh’s plea and posted the matter to June 4, said a lawyer, who requested anonymity.

The application coincided with the beginning of the trial in the case in the court.

The Supreme Court had directed transfer of the case from Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab following a plea made by the victim’s family.

Singh, who is also mentioned in the charge sheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Crime Branch, is accused of taking money to mislead investigating officers about the presence of Vishal Jangotra, the son of Sanji Ram.

Ram is alleged to be the brain behind the abduction and murder of the nomadic girl in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir in January this year.

Crime Branch officials said they would soon submit a supplementary charge sheet before the court to highlight how Vishal, with the help of university officials, attempted to create an alibi — that he was in Meerut from January 10 to 17 and appeared for an exam on January 15.

The Crime Branch maintains that Jangotra was present in Kathua and allegedly raped the little girl before leaving on January 14.

The prosecution has also moved an application requesting that the judicial custody of the seven accused in the case be shifted from Kathua to Pathankot, citing security reasons in transferring them from one town to the other.

The defence lawyers, however, objected to the move. After this, the judge issued notice to the Punjab government and the defence lawyers about the Crime Branch request, asking them to respond by Monday, the lawyer said.

Defence lawyer A K Sawhney told reporters outside the court complex after the day’s proceedings that a group of lawyers claiming to represent the family had come without government notification.

“We objected to the appearance of some lawyers who came without notification from the government and attempted to appear in court. They can’t appear until it is either decided by the court or they carry the government’s notification of the government,” he said.

“Since the proceedings are in-camera, we are not able to say much more with regard to the proceedings. The trial has started and will be held daily. Tomorrow, the proceedings will start at 1200 hours,” Sawhney said.  (Agencies)

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