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SC dismisses pleas for fresh and CBI probe in Kathua case

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New Delhi, Oct 05:  The Supreme Court Friday rejected two pleas by the accused in the Kathua gang rape and murder case, with one seeking a fresh investigation alleging “motivated” probe by the state police and the other demanding that the probe be transferred to an independent agency like the CBI.

A bench comprising Justices U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud said there was “no reason to interfere” in the matter and the accused could raise these issues during the ongoing trial before the lower court at Pathankot in Punjab.

While one of the accused had sought “de-novo (fresh) investigation” in the matter claiming that probe conducted by the state police’s Crime Branch was “motivated”, the two other accused had moved the apex court seeking a direction that the probe be transferred to an independent agency.

“According to us, this matter does not require de-novo investigation. Whatever are the infirmities, you can try to take advantage of them in the trial,” the bench said.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the two accused Vishal Jangotra and his father Sanji Ram, told the bench that there were “two versions” in the charge-sheet against them.

“The petitioners here are father and son. It is improbable that a father will call his son from Meerut, where he (son) is giving his examination, to commit such crime,” Kumar said, adding that “it is improbable in Indian context that father and son will do this.”

He also argued that police officers were also arrayed as accused in the case.

However, the bench said, “Your prayer is for transfer of investigation. We are declining that prayer”.

The lawyer appearing for the other accused claimed before the apex court that two officers of the special investigation team, which has probed the matter, were themselves facing criminal charges of custodial murder and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

He claimed that a “motivated investigation” was conducted in the matter and witnesses were being “coerced”.

“Why are you asking for a de-novo investigation?” the bench asked.

Responding to the query, the lawyer argued that from the charge-sheet filed in the case, it was established that the investigation was “botched up”.

When he referred to the statements given by some of the witnesses in the case, the bench observed, “We are alive to that but that is not a matter which entitles you to seek fresh investigation”.

The bench also sought to know about the number of witnesses examined in the case by the trial court.

The counsel said 80 prosecution witnesses were already examined in the matter.

“We have gone through the writ petition (filed by one of the accused) and we see no reason to interfere,” the apex court said and told the counsel that he could raise these issues before the lower court during the trial.

On May 07, the apex court had vacated the stay on trial of the Kathua gangrape and murder case and transferred it to Pathankot in Punjab.

It had directed that the trial be held in-camera, be fast-tracked and conducted on a day-to-day basis to avoid any delay and it would be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code, which is applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.

The victim, an eight-year-old girl from a minority nomadic Gujjar community, had disappeared from near her home in a village close to Kathua in the Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.

The state police’s Crime Branch had earlier filed the main charge-sheet against seven persons and a separate charge-sheet against a “juvenile” in a court in Kathua district.

The charge-sheet has revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.

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