The trial in the brutal gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir that shook the nation ended Monday and the judgement in the case in which there are eight accused including a village head is likely to be delivered on June 10.
District and sessions judge Tejwinder Singh announced in the court in Pathankot after the conclusion of the in-camera trial that he is likely to deliver the verdict on June 10, special public prosecutor J K Chopra told PTI.
Defence lawyers completed their final arguments followed by a brief concluding statement from the prosecution team led by Chopra, officials said.
According to the 15-page charge sheet, the eight-year-old girl, who was kidnapped on January 10 last year, was allegedly raped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days before she was 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 neighbouring state of Punjab, about 100 km from Jammu and 30 km from Kathua, after the Supreme Court ordered 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 charge sheet in the sensational case, which shocked the nation.
The Crime Branch arrested village head Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, juvenile nephew and his friend Anand Dutta, and two special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma. Head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, were also arrested.
Charges of rape and murder were framed by the district and sessions judge against seven out of the eight accused. 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.
The court framed charges under the Ranbir Penal Code(RPC), including Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang-rape), according to the prosecution.
The accused, if convicted, face minimum life imprisonment and maximum death penalty.
The court also framed charges of destruction of evidence and causing hurt by poisoning under Section 328 of the RPC. The two policemen – Raj and Datta – were also charged under Section 161 (public servant taking illegal gratification) of the RPC.
All the accused, barring the juvenile, were shifted to Gurdaspur jail 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 charge sheet said the girl had gone missing while grazing horses. Investigators said the accused juvenile had abducted the girl under 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, it said.
The case had become a bone of contention between the then ruling alliance partners PDP and the BJP after two ministers of the saffron party, Chowdhury Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, participated in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused arrested by the state crime branch.
In an order last year, the apex court said “the pivotal fact around which the controversy centres, is abduction, rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl. An FIR was lodged at Hiranagar Police Station, Kathua…The investigating agency, namely, the Crime Branch, which took over the investigation on 22nd January, 2018 from the local police has already filed the charge sheet on 9th April, 2018, in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua in the State of Jammu and Kashmir”.
“The learned district and sessions judge, Pathankot, shall himself take up the trial and not assign it to any additional sessions judge and shall fast-track the trial and take it up on day-to-day basis so that there is no delay in trial,” the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had said in April last year.