In a shocking turn of events, State Government has appointed the defence lawyer of an accused arrested on charges of rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl in Kathua early this year as the additional advocate-general. Advocate Aseem Sawhneys appointment has come days after a crucial piece of forensic evidence about the case went missing: The envelope containing hair of the victim, which was produced in the court by Special Investigating Team (SIT) on July 17 turned out to be empty. Already, in the case, police men charged to collect evidence washed the clothes of the victim to ensure there was no evidence against the accused. And who can forget how the lawyers, the supposed upholders of justice, had tried to prevent the Crime Branch to file charge-sheet in the case.
So, there is a pattern to the way the case is being handled by the state. A systematic process seems to be underway to protect the accused. A sustained and determined effort seems afoot to weaken the evidence against the accused to a point where it doesnt stand the scrutiny of the law. This is a tragic and dangerous state of affairs and the state government seems least interested in intervening and shoring up the confidence of the people who want justice to be delivered. Such an environment incentivizes the abuse, crudeness, unethical and uncivilized behaviour. It even promotes violence against weaker sections of the society, especially Muslims.
Early this year, the details of the ghastly crime had galvanized the civil society in a big way. The people all over India had protested the crime, including even cricketing and Bollywood celebrities. Even the United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres had termed the gangrape and murder a “horrific” incident and asked the authorities to ensure justice. In major cities, some really large protests had been held, in some cases, people even performing on the streets to draw attention to the crime. In fact, some videos doing rounds online had shown some singers musically expressing their horror.
Similarly, in the Valley, a wave of protests had begun in reaction to the belated knowledge of the horrors that the girl had to endure in captivity. Every section of the society had participated in the protests. The students were most vociferous in their support for the victim. Almost every day over several weeks, the students from various colleges, including the womens colleges demonstrated against the crime.
But now the way the case is being handled doesnt inspire confidence. At least, this is what the loss of forensic evidence and the appointment of the accuseds lawyer as the senior government council tells you. It is high time that the state government steps up and demonstrates it is serious about delivering justice in the case. It bears reminding here that justice has to not only be done but also seen to be done.