The Supreme Court on Monday transferred the trial in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra directed that the trial in the case should be held in-camera and ordered that the trial be fast-tracked and conducted on a day-to-day basis to avoid any delay.
The top court also said the trial would be in accordance with the provisions of Ranbir Penal Code, applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.
The apex court said the trial must be fair to the accused as well as the victim’s family.
It also ordered continuation of security to the family members of the victim, family friends and lawyer representing them and directed translation of statements and records of the case from Urdu to English and also.
“The security provided to the juvenile accused will continue,” a bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra said.
Talking to J&K Government’s counsel in the Supreme Court Shoeb Alam said the plea of the accused for CBI probe into the case has not been allowed by the Apex Court.
In its judgement, the Apex Court observed that the fair trial commands that there has to be an atmosphere where the victims, the accused and the witnesses feel safe. “They must not suffer from any kind of phobia while attending the court,” the top court observed.
Significantly, the Court has allowed J&K government to appoint its own public prosecutors.“The most important thing is that the prosecution will be with J&K government. Ordinarily when a trial is shifted to a different state, that the state appoints the prosecution lawyers,” a legal expert said.
The Court has also said that trial at Pathankot court shall proceed under the Ranbir Penal Code as that applies to Jammu & Kashmir.
The Supreme Court also admitted that the report of Principal District and Sessions Judge Kathua indicates that that there had been some obstruction by the Bar Association at Kathua.
“Suffice it to mention that the report indicates that there had been some obstruction by the Bar Association at Kathua,” the Apex Court said.
Last month, the Bar Council of India, in its report had exonerated the Bar Assocation Kathua of the charge that it had obstructed Crime Branch from presentation of challan against accused on April 9 .
However, Advocate Ankur Sharma, who is defending the eight accused arrested by the Crime Branch said, “We will file fresh writ petition in the Supreme Court for a CBI probe in a few days.”
“The CBI demand has not been rejected by Supreme Court. Only the case has been fast tracked (to be heard on day to day basis) and transferred to Pathankot,” Sharma said.
The victim, an eight-year-old girl from a minority nomadic community, had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in the Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
The apex court had earlier given a stern warning and said it would transfer the Kathua gangrape-and-murder case from the local court in the “slightest possibility” of lack of fair trial, saying the “real concern” was to hold proper prosecution.
The girl’s father had moved the apex court earlier, apprehending threat to the family, a friend and their lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat. A separate plea was also filed by two accused seeking that the trial in the case be held in Jammu and the probe handed over to the CBI.
The state police’s Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed the main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district last week. The charge sheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.