07, May 2018 | CJP Team
In a welcome development in the Kathua rape and murder case, the Supreme Court has transferred the case to a court in Pathankot, Punjab. The trial will be conducted on a day-to-day basis and the SC will monitor the trial. This is significant given concerns that the accused in the case could use their political clout to derail justice.
The Supreme Court has ordered a day-to-day trial and clarified that this means there shall be no adjournments during the trial. The trial will be held in camera and the statements that have been recorded in Urdu will be translated into either Hindi or English for the Pathankot court. The trial will be held as per the provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code that is applicable to the state of J&K. The case will be presided over by the Pathankot District Judge.
CJP welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to move this trial out of J&K. We believe that if the trial takes place in a time-bound manner and if adequate security is provided to the victim’s family and lawyers, there will surely be #JusticeForOurChild Join CJP and help us further our quest for Criminal Justice Reforms and Child Rights.
A Special Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, was hearing a plea by the victim’s father to transfer the case out of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The SC refused to examine a separate plea by the accused to hand over investigations in the case to the CBI. While the SC allowed the Jammu and Kashmir government to appoint a public prosecutor, it said that the state government should provide security to the victim’s family, their lawyer and witnesses in the case. This is also significant because Deepika Singh Rajawat, who is the victim’s lawyer, had alleged harassment from the Jammu Bar Association.
The entire SC Order may be read here
Fears about the Political Clout of the Accused
Supporters of the accused had earlier held a rally claiming they had been framed. The tricolour was also waved at this rally with much gusto as if to suggest the accused were national heroes who were being falsely implicated in the case.
Later members of the Kathua Bar Association had tried to prevent the Crime Branch form filing a charge-sheet before the court in a clear case of obstruction of justice. The 15 page charge-sheet showcases the horrifying brutality of the case as well as how the accused had kidnapped, drugged, raped and murdered the little girl to scare and drive away the local nomadic Muslim Bakarwal community. The SC had taken suo motu cognisance of the actions of the lawyers and said, “What does the bar association have to do with the presentation of the charge sheet? You are supposed to argue your case, not protest. You have the right to practice with dignity and independence, but that does not mean you can go on a strike or stop people from appearing in court.” Oddly enough the Bar Council of India stood by the Kathua Bar Association.
Fake News being spread to Influence Public Opinion
Meanwhile, several right wing groups and trolls have been engaging in a willful campaign to spread misinformation and fake news in a bid to derail justice in the case. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan has filed a criminal complaint against Madhu Kishwar for a communally provocative tweet that alleged that Rohingya refugees who had been recently resettled in the Jammu region were responsible for the reprehensible crime. Kishwar’s tweet can be viewed here:
In fact, such was the continuous onslaught of fake news and conspiracy theories, that the Jammu and Kashmir Police had to issue a press release to put all facts on the record, once and for all. This is why, the case being transferred outside the state, and directions to provide security to the victim’s family, witnesses and lawyer, are small but significant steps on the path to justice.