Kathua Rape, Murder Case: ‘Juvenile’ Lie Nailed, To Be Tried As An Adult

New Delhi- A shoddily drafted application for a birth certificate was the loose string that led to the unravelling of the conspiracy to proclaim one of those accused in the 2018 gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua as a juvenile.

On Wednesday, that story, told multiple times over the last four years, ended with the Supreme Court ruling that the accused claiming to be a juvenile can be treated as an adult and a trial should be initiated against him.

The case of the young man in his early 20s, who can now be identified as Shubam Sangra, was being heard by the Juvenile Board in Kathua in Jammu. He was lodged in a juvenile home in Jammu and was expected to be released soon.

With Sangra being tried in the gang rape-murder, the quest for justice for the child who was smothered to death in captivity in January 2018 takes a decisive turn.

The inconsistencies in dates and false information in the application for a birth registration certificate filed by Sangra’s father on April 15, 2004 were crucial in nailing the lie.

According to the charge sheet in the case filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch, Sangra was instrumental in the abduction, gang rape and killing of the child, eight people, including Sangra, were accused in the case that shook the nation with its details of brutality.

The affidavit filed in the court cited the inconsistencies in the application to buttress its claim that Sangra was a juvenile. This was submitted in court along with medical reasons by the Crime Branch, which was contesting the trial court’s decision to treat Sangra as a minor.

The application at the tehsildar’s office in Hiranagar, Jammu, was filed by Sangra’s father who wanted birth registration certificates of his three children. The eldest, a boy, whose date of birth was stated to be November 23, 1997, a daughter said to be born on February 21, 1998, and Shubam Sangra on October 23, 2002, police said.

The difference in the birth days of the two elder children was just two months and 28 days, “which by any medical standard is impossible”, the affidavit states.

This, it says, indicates the father’s casual approach in furnishing the particulars of the dates of birth.

Moreover, no place of birth was mentioned for the older two, but Shubam Sangra was stated to be born in a Hiranagar hospital. A subsequent investigation to test the veracity of that statement did not bear that out, officials said.

A special investigation team sent a questionnaire to the Hiranagar block medical officer and asked for records of Sangra’s birth along with the particulars of the parents. The block medical officer verified the record and categorically stated that no delivery in the name of the Sangra’s mother had taken place on October 23, 2002, police said in the affidavit before the apex court.

“…in fact these entries were imaginary, and without any supporting birth record of either Municipal Committee or Primary Health Centre where the birth of the respondent (juvenile) is stated to have taken place,” it said.

The painstaking Investigation, which resulted in the affidavit, was backed by a report of a board of medical experts that determined Sangra’s age as not less than 19 and not more than 23 on January 10, 2018 when the brutal assault took place.

The report by specialists from different departments, including a physiologist, dental examiner, radiologist and forensic scientist, based its conclusion on various clinical tests as well as Sangra’s physical appearance.

The Crime Branch charge sheet detailed Sangra’s alleged involvement in the horrific crime. It said Sangra was responsible for an overdose of sedatives forcibly administered to the eight-year-old, rendering her “incapacitated” to resist sexual assault on her as well as her murder.

“She was forcefully administered five tablets of Clonazepam of 0.5 mg each on January 11, 2018 which is higher than the safe therapeutic dose. Subsequently more tablets were given…The signs and symptoms of an overdose may include drowsiness, confusion, impaired coordination, slow reflexes, slowed or stopped breathing, coma (loss of consciousness) and death,” a medical expert was quoted as saying.

The peak concentration of clonazepam is achieved in the blood after one hour to 90 minutes of oral administration and its absorption is complete, “irrespective of administered either with or without food”, according to the concluding opinion.

Doctors were of the opinion that tablets given to the child could have pushed her into a state of shock or coma.

The case was transferred out of Jammu and Kashmir and shifted to Pathankot on orders from the Supreme Court on May 7, 2018.

The special court on June 10, 2019 sentenced three men to life imprisonment “till last breath”. These were Sanji Ram, the mastermind and caretaker of the ‘devasthanam’ (temple) where the crime took place, special police officer Deepak Khajuria and a civilian called Parvesh Kumar.

Three other accused — Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma — were convicted for destruction of evidence to cover up the crime and handed down five years in jail and Rs 50,000 fine each. They are at out on parole.

The seventh accused, Vishal Jangotra, son of Sanji Ram, was acquitted.

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