2018 Kathua Rape & Murder Case: Investigators Feel Vindicated

Jammu- Crime branch officials of Jammu and Kashmir Police on Wednesday said they felt vindicated after Supreme Court verdict which upheld their findings that main accused in the gang rape and murder of eight-year-old girl in Kathua was not a juvenile.

The officers, some of whom have retired now, expressed happiness after their painstaking probe findings in the gruesome rape and murder of the nomadic girl in 2018 were upheld by the top court.

The apex court trashed the claims of accused Shubam Sangra that he was a juvenile at the time of crime, which limits maximum punishment to just three years, and held him to be an adult to face the trial.

The then Inspector General (crime branch) Ahfadul Mujtaba, who has retired, exclaimed with joy that the hard work of his team has finally yielded desired results.

“We have been saying from day one that Shubam Sangra had used juvenile card to escape the punishment. But never mind, the law has finally caught him,” Mujtaba told PTI.

He refused to be drawn into politics in the case and said “as a police officer, I believe that justice has been done and now the main culprit will face the law and I am sure that he will be punished for the heinous crime that he committed”.

R K Jalla, the then senior superintendent of police and chief investigator of the case, said, “It is finally victory of truth” and “I hope that trial against the accused will begin soon.”

Jalla, along with his team comprising Superintendent of Police Naveed and Deputy Superintendent of Police Shwetambari Sharma, had faced a lot of criticism after the arrest of Sanji Ram, one of the main accused serving life sentence in Gurdaspur jail.

“All that has happened is over now and a lesson to people that one should never lose faith in judicial process of the country. The fringe elements will try to create roadblocks but eventually, the law catches up with the criminal,” Jalla, who is leading a retired life, told PTI.

Recalling the case, he said it was like looking for a needle in a haystack till an unusual sweat on Sanji Ram’s face on a chilly January morning hinted he was hiding something.

Sanji Ram, along with two others, were convicted for life in the case by a sessions court in Pathankot on Monday.

Retired from service in February 2019, Jalla was handed the case that was given to the crime branch on January 27, 2018.

“After having investigated the crime scene, we went to meet Sanji Ram (one of the accused in the case). As I and my team started enquiring about his family members, including his arrested juvenile nephew, I asked about his son Vishal Sangha.

“Sanji Ram immediately conveyed to me in a boastful voice that his son was studying in Meerut and I can go and check from his CDR (call detail record). I started wondering about two things — why is he insisting that I should go and check Vishal’s call records and second, why the hell is he sweating on a chilly morning of January,” Jalla, one of the most decorated Jammu and Kashmir Police officers, recalled.

Jalla’s only regret in the case was that Vishal had been released on benefit of doubt by the court but hoped that the new twist would soon catch on him also.

The case had assumed political dimensions with two former BJP leaders, Lal Singh and Ganga Singh, joining a protest march on March 2018 during which a demand for release of Sanji Ram and others was made.

The case saw straining of ties between PDP and BJP alliance government but as investigators in the case, Jalla said he “had received not a single call from any of the BJP leaders”.

“There was no political pressure whatsoever on me or my team and we were doing our job with complete dedication and honesty,” he added.

Jalla was part of the first batch of police officers that joined the Special Operations Group – an anti-militancy crack forces formed in early 1990s.

The officer, with a smile, also added that this case made him revisit all that had been taught to him during training at the police academy.

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