SRINAGAR A court in Pathankot on Monday sentenced to life imprisonment the three main accused in the gangrape-and-murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua district of Jammu division, while awarding five years in jail to three others for destruction of evidence.
After nearly a year-long trial, court in Pathankot held the six guilty in the case that sparked world-wide outrage, while acquitted another accused Vishal Jangotra, son of mastermind Sanji Ram, giving him the ‘benefit of doubt’, according to Mubeen Farooqi, who represented the victim’s family in the court.
Ram, the caretaker of the Devsthanam (temple) where the crime took place, Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian, have been convicted under Ranbir Penal Code sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gangrape, destruction of evidence, drugging the victim and common intention, prosecution lawyer Santokh Singh said. The prosecution had sought capital punishment for them.
The three have been sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs one lakh each after being convicted for criminal conspiracy and murder, the prosecution lawyer said.
Under Section 302 (murder), they were sentenced to undergo life imprisonment and penalty of Rs 1 lakh; under Section 120b (criminal conspiracy): Imprisonment for life plus fine of Rs 50,000; under
Section 376-D (gang rape): Rigorous imprisonment for 25 years plus Rs 50,000 fine and under Section 328 (causing hurt by means of feeding poison): Rigorous imprisonment for 10 years plus Rs 50,000 fine and under section 363 (kidnapping): Rigorous imprisonment for seven years and fine of Rs 50,000.
Of the three, Parvesh Kumar was additionally awarded punishment under RPC section 376D/511 of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years plus Rs 25,000 fine.
“Our observation is that the three main accused have been sentenced to prison till their death. The court was asked whether the prison sentences would run concurrently, the Honourable Judge said that the definition of life imprisonment as it was defined would apply in this case,” JK Chopra, the public prosecutor in the case, told reporters while briefing the media outside court complex.
Each of their three accomplices — Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma — have been convicted for destruction of evidence to cover up and handed down five years in jail and Rs 50,000 fine each, he said.
If they do not deposit the fine, they will have to serve additional six months in jail, he said.
The court pronounced the much-awaited verdict away from the gaze of media which gathered outside the premises.
The prosecution team, comprising lawyers J K Chopra, S S Basra, Harminder Singh and Bhupinder Singh, said it demanded capital punishment for the main accused and may go in for appeal against the sole acquittal.
“We have sought capital punishment against all three accused convicted of murder and gang rape. It was hard work of all of us and a perfect blend of investigation and legal brains. We have achieve 99 per cent result,” the statement said.
The crime branch of J&K Police had filed the chargesheet against eight persons, including a juvenile.
The trial against the juvenile is yet to begin as his petition on determining his age is to be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
According to the 15-page chargesheet filed in April last year, the girl was kidnapped on January 10 that year and was raped in captivity in a small village temple, exclusively manned by Ram, after having been kept sedated for four days. She was later bludgeoned to death.
The day-to-day trial commenced in the first week of June last year at the district and sessions court in Pathankot in the neighbouring state of Punjab, about 100 km from Jammu and 30 km from Kathua, after the Supreme Court ordered on May 7, 2018 that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir.
The apex court order came after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a chargesheet in the sensational case.
The Crime Branch held Ram, his juvenile nephew and his son Vishal, and two SPOs Khajuria and Verma. Raj and Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, were also arrested.
The charges of rape and murder were framed by the district and sessions judge against seven of the eight accused.
The court framed charges under relevant sections of the Ranbir Penal Code(RPC), including Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang-rape), according to the prosecution.
The court also framed charges of destruction of evidence and causing hurt by poisoning under Section 328 of the RPC.
All the accused, barring the juvenile, were shifted to the Gurdaspur jail in Punjab following an intervention by the Supreme Court which also restricted appearance of the defence lawyers and limited it to one or maximum of two per accused.
The chargesheet said the girl had gone missing while grazing horses.
Investigators said the accused juvenile had abducted the girl on the pretext of helping her find her horses.
The abduction, rape and killing of the child was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the chargesheet said.
10 Jan 2018: Eight-year-old girl belonging to the Bakarwal tribe goes missing in the Rasana village of Kathua district while grazing cattle.
12 Jan 2018: FIR is registered on the complaint of victim’s father at Hiranagar police station.
17 Jan 2018: Body of the girl is found. Post mortem confirms gangrape and murder.
22 Jan 2018: Case is handed over to Jammu and Kashmir crime branch
6 Feb 2018: A right-wing group, Hindu Ekta Manch, holds protests in support of accused.
1 March, 2018: 2 ministers of the BJP, part of then PDP-BJP ruling coalition, Chander Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh, attend rally organised by Ekta Manch
7 May 2018: The Supreme Court shifts the case from Kathua to Pathankot in Punjab with the direction that the trial to be fast-tracked and held in-camera, away from media gaze.
3 June, 2019: Trial concludes.
9 April, 2018: The police file the chargesheet before the Kathua court against seven of the eight accused.
10 April, 2018: Chargesheet filed against eighth accused who had claimed to be a juvenile. The police file an FIR against lawyers for protesting and attempting to prevent the crime branch officials from filing the charge sheet in the court on 9 April.
14 April, 2018: BJP ministers who attended the Hindu Ekta Manch rally resign from the state Cabinet. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres terms the crime “horrific” and asks authorities to deliver justice.
10 June 2019: Mastermind Sanji Ram and 2 other accused convicted, given lifer; 3 policemen also held guilty for destruction of evidence, awarded 5 years in jail
Expected Death Penalty: NCW Chairperson
The National Commission for Women chairperson on Monday said the Pathankot court decision convicting six accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua in January 2018 was not enough and expected harsher punishment for them.
“Was expecting capital punishment for Kathua rape and murder criminals. Jammu and Kashmir government must go for appeal in higher court,” NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma tweeted.
Former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and others including former IAS topper Shah Faesal besides chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Monday welcomed a court order convicting six accused in the Kathua rape-and-murder case.
“Amen to that. The guilty deserve the most severe punishment possible under law. And to those politicians who defended the accused, vilified the victim & threatened the legal system no words of condemnation are enough,” Abdullah tweeted.
He was reacting to the Pathankot court verdict convicting six of the seven accused in the rape-and-murder case of the eight-year-old nomadic girl in Rasana area of Kathua district in January last year.
“Welcome the judgement. High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8 year old child was drugged, raped repeatedly & then bludgeoned to death. Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited & culprits get exemplary punishment,” Mehbooba tweeted.
Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal lauded the police for securing the conviction of the accused persons.
“Congratulations to @JmuKmrPolice for getting Raisina Kathua rapists convicted. Politicians tried their best to sabotage the movement for justice to A (the victim). But the Honble Court and the law enforcement agencies stood their ground. Pray we never have to see such horror again,” he tweeted.
Senior Hurriyat Conference leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also welcomed the judgement. He tweeted: “Welcome the court verdict on the Kathua gang rape-murder case. I hope that exemplary punishment is given to the culprits.”
President J&K Peoples Movement Shah Faesal also welcomed the verdict and called it a victory of truth over falsehood.
In his tweet, Shah Faesal called out the politicians who had tried to sabotage the investigation in the matter and gave credit to J&K Police and the Judiciary for standing their ground in-spite of the political pressure.
He said that politicization of this rape case was one of the most horrendous and shameful incidents of our time and those people who raised the communal bogey against the victims family deserve to be condemned.
“The role of media and activists who tirelessly built a global campaign for justice to the victim also needs to be appreciated”, Faesal added.
People in Kashmir said that it was ultimately the truth that has prevailed and the judgement by the trial court has proved that nobody is above the law.
CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami while welcoming the verdict said: The gruesome gangrape and murder is crime committed by the enemies of humanity. Crime is a crime irrespective of criminals caste, colour and creed. Unfortunately, some fringe elements had tried to communalise this incident but due to intervention of judiciary, people of the state and the country they could not succeed..
He said the civil society and saner voices irrespective of affiliation and ideology, across the country, raised voice against this brutal act and todays verdict is the victory of truth.