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Defence counsel in Kathua case appointed AAG

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PDP, NC, CPI-M criticise decision

Srinagar, Jul 18: Jammu and Kashmir government has appointed Aseem Sawhney, one of the defence lawyers in the Kathua rape and murder case , as an additional advocate general of the state, drawing criticism from former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.

In an order issued yesterday, the State government appointed 31 advocates as additional advocates general, deputy advocates general and government advocates, with 15 in the Kashmir wing of the High Court and 16 in the Jammu wing.

One the 16 names of law officers for the Jammu wing is Aseem Sawhney – one of the defence lawyers in the rape and murder case of an eight-year-old nomad girl in Kathua.

Sawhney has been appointed as an additional advocate general.

The appointment has raised eye-brows here in the Valley with PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti terming it a “shocking violation” of the spirit of justice and alleging that it will encourage “rape culture”.

She also voiced hope that the Governor will intervene in the issue.

“Ironic that a day after celebrating World Day for International Justice, the defence counsel in the horrific rape & (and) murder Kathua case has been appointed as Additional Advocate General,” Mehbooba wrote on Twitter.

“Rewarding those who defend alleged murderers & rapists is abhorrent & a shocking violation of the spirit of justice. Such a move will only serve to encourage the rape culture rampant in our society. Expect the @jandkgovernor to intervene,” she said in another tweet.

Reacting to the issue, National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah tweeted: “The decision is both inexplicable & worrisome but if the victim’s lawyer is not unduly concerned by this development the rest of us should just let her get on with the job of ensuring justice for the young victim.”

CPI (M) leader and MLA Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami also urged the Governor administration to revisit the order.

“The decision is being seen as a reward for those who defended the indefensible and would set a wrong precedence,” Tarigami said, adding that “someone fighting a case for a rape accused should not have been given such an important responsibility. It would send a wrong message that those supporting the rape accused are being rewarded by the government.”

The brutal rape and murder of the girl belonging to a minority nomadic community, in a village close to Kathua in Jammu region had sparked outrage in the country. She had disappeared on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.

According to the charge-sheet, the victim was held in captivity at a small village temple where she was kept sedated and sexually assaulted before she was bludgeoned to death.

The trial in the case began on May 31 with the seven accused being produced before the district and sessions judge after the Supreme Court transferred the case from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab for a fair trial following a plea by the victim’s family.

While transferring the case from Kathua to Pathankot, about 30 km away, the apex court directed day-to-day in-camera trial in the case.

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