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In court, Kathua accused plead not guilty; ask for narco test

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April 28 is next date of hearing; Court asks CB to give copies of charge-sheet to the accused

Kathua, Apr 16 : The eight people accused of raping and killing an eight-year-old girl here today pleaded not guilty and asked the District and Sessions Judge for a narco test.

As the trial in the case, which has become the focal point of outrage across the country, began here, District and Sessions Judge Sanjeev Gupta asked the State Crime Branch to give copies of the charge-sheet to the accused and fixed April 28 as the next date of hearing.

While seven accused were presented before the judge, the eighth is a juvenile, who moved a bail application before a judicial magistrate.

The child from a minority nomadic Bakerwal community was allegedly held in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district for a week in January this year during which she was kept sedated and sexually assaulted before being bludgeoned to death.

According to the charge-sheets filed by the Crime Branch, the abduction, rape and killing of the girl was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the nomadic community from the area. A separate charge-sheet was filed for the juvenile.

Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the ‘devisthan’ in a village in Kathua, about 90 km from Jammu, is listed as the main conspirator behind the crime.

He was allegedly joined by special police officers (SPOs) Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, and his son Vishal Jangotra alias “Shamma”.

The charge-sheet also names investigating officers Head Constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.

As the trial began inside the court, Ram’s daughter Madhu Sharma protested outside, demanding a CBI probe.

The issue of providing the accused copies of the “challan”, or the charge-sheet, was raised before the judge by the lawyers, Ankush Sharma, who is pleading the case for Sanji Ram, his son and others,  told reporters.

He said the charge-sheet was presented in court on April 09 but copies had not yet been provided.

Ram told the judge that they wanted narco tests and were ready for them.

The judge asked the accused whether they had been given copies of the charge-sheet, which runs into 400 pages,  added A K Sawahney, who is representing Head Constable Tilak Raj.

He told reporters that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had been talking about a fast-track trial but copies of the charge-sheet had still not been provided to them.

The Supreme Court also heard two separate petitions on the case today afternoon.

Kathua-based lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat, representing the family of the eight-year-old girl, has alleged that she is facing a threat to life and is seeking protection.

A second plea is by Delhi-based lawyer Anuja Kapur, seeking transfer of the case from the Kathua trial court to a local court in the national capital.


Jammu lawyers suspend agitation, resume work

Jammu, Apr 16 (PTI) The Jammu High Court Bar Association (JHCBA) today resumed work after staying away from courts for 12 days in support of their various demands including handing over the Kathua rape-and-murder case to CBI and deportation of illegally settled Rohingyas.

The decision to resume work was taken at a general house meeting of the JHCBA held under the chairmanship of its president B S Slathia here.

“The general house decided to temporarily suspend the agitation, responding to the appeal of Bar Council of India (BCI), and the Supreme Court taking cognizance of the issue (Kathua rape-and-murder case),” Slathia said.

The JHCBA went on a four-day strike initially on April 04 in support of four demands, which included clarity from the government on tribal affairs and district status to Nowshehra sub-division in Rajouri district. It later extended the strike till April 17.

The JHCBA also sponsored a general strike in Jammu on April 11 but faced severe criticism from various quarters.

Slathia, however, said the bar would continue its agitation over only two issues – deportation of Rohingyas and clarity on tribal affairs.

“We will continue our agitation on two issues. We have only changed the mode of the agitation. We will continue our professional duties but simultaneously hold ‘dharnas’ (sit-ins) and candle marches to make people aware about our demands to ensure early deportation of Rohingyas,” he said.

The BCI yesterday asked the Jammu and Kathua Bar associations to call off their strike and decided to send a five-member team headed by a former High Court Chief Justice to investigate the alleged incident of misconduct on part of the lawyers there in connection with the Kathua rape-murder case.

BCI chairman and senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra had told reporters that if any lawyer is found guilty, then the Council will go to the extent of cancelling the legal practise licence.

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