Kathua rape case trial today as India demands justice: Top 10 developments

Kathua rape case trialKathua rape and murder case will go to trial on Monday, with the eight accused who allegedly held an eight-year-old girl captive in a small village temple in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district for a week in January this year and sexually assaulted her before murdering, standing in the dock. The Kathua rape case trials begin a day after protests were staged in various parts of the country by citizens outraged by the heinous crime and the other incidents of rape in Unnao and Surat. Among other places, protests were held at Delhi’s Parliament Street and at Carter Road in Mumbai’s Bandra area. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had called for a special fast track court to complete the trial in 90 days.The accused in the Kathua case include a juvenile, against whom a separate charge sheet was filed. The juveline and the other accused will be facing separate trials. While seven of the accused perpetrators will be tried in the sessions court, the chief judicial magistrate of Kathua will hold the trial for the juvenile. The accused include four police officers and a retired government official.After the Jammu Bar association and the Kathua Bar received a rap on the kuckles by the Supreme Court on April 13, as the apex court took a strong note of certain lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the case, the Kathua trial is expected to be conducted smoothly. However, the Supreme Court’s actions in the matter and the Indian civil society’s demand for justice in the Kathua case have not eased the challenges faced by the lawyer of the victim’s family. The Kathua rape victim’s lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat on Sunday said that she feared for her life as she might get raped or murdered. She added that she had been called anti-Hindu and boycotted socially.The charge sheets filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s crime branch state that the abduction, rape, and killing of the minor Bakerwal girl was part of a carefully planned strategy aimed at forcing the minority nomadic community out of the area.Meanwhile, as the Kathua trial is set to begin, a group of former civil servants on Sunday issued a strongly worded open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, holding him responsible “more than anyone else” for the “terrifying state of affairs” in the country. The letter asked Modi to check India’s “free fall into anarchy” by taking tough action against the alleged perpetrators of the Kathua and Unnao rape cases and the perpetrators of other hate crimes across the country. Two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers — Chandra Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh — have resigned following accusations of attending a rally in support of the alleged culprits of the crime. Furthermore, on Sunday, hundreds of people participated in a “Not In My Name” protest march at Parliament Street in the national capital against the increasing incidents of rape and atrocities against Dalits and minorities. Thousands of Mumbaikars, including Bollywood celebrities, also gathered on Sunday for a peaceful protest over the incidents of rape in Kathua and Unnao.Here are the top 10 developments in the Kathua rape and murder case ahead of the trials that begin today:1) Kathua rape case trial against eight accused begins today: The trials in the gruesome Kathua rape and murder case begin on Monday against the eight accused, including a juvenile against whom a separate charge sheet was filed. As mandated under the law, Kathua’s chief judicial magistrate will be committing one of the charge sheets, which names seven people, to the sessions court for trial. However, the chief judicial magistrate will hold the juvenile’s trial as it is the designated court under the juvenile act.2) Sikh special public prosecutors appointed for Kathua rape case trial to ensure ‘neutrality’: Two special public prosecutors, both Sikhs, have been appointed by the Jammu and Kashmir government for the trial in the sensitive Kathua rape case. This move is being seen as an attempt to ensure “neutrality” in view of the Hindu-Muslim polarisation over the case.Read our earlier coverage on the Kathua rape case developments here: Kathua rape: Ensure justice, UN to govt; BJP-PDP alliance under threat?3) Who are the eight accused in the Kathua rape and murder case? The charge sheet filed by the crime branch lists Sanji Ram, the caretaker of a small temple called ‘Devisthan’ in a village in Kathua, as the main conspirator behind the crime. Sanji Ram was allegedly joined by special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar (alias Mannu), Ram’s juvenile nephew, and his son Vishal Jangotra (alias Shamma) in commiting the crime. The charge sheet also names the investigating police officers — head constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta — for allegedly taking Rs 400,000 (Rs 4 lakh) from Ram and destroying crucial evidence in the Kathua case. All eight are under arrest.

Read what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to say about the Kathua and Unnao rape cases here: Kathua and Unnao aftermath: PM Modi says criminals will not be spared
4) Kathua rape victim’s lawyer fears she may be killed or raped: The lawyer representing the Kathua rape victim’s family, Deepika Singh Rajawat, on Sunday said that she fears for her life and that she may be raped or murdered. “Today, I don’t know, I am not in my senses. I can be raped. I can be killed and may be they won’t allow me to practice in court,” said Advocate Rajawat, adding, “They (have) isolated me, I don’t know how I can survive.” She added that she has been labeled anti-Hindu and socially boycotted.Further, Rajawat said that she would be approaching the Supreme Court to demand security for herself and her family. “I will tell this to the Supreme Court. I am feeling bad and it’s really unfortunate. You can well imagine my plight,” she said, adding, “But, I will stand for justice and we would seek justice for the eight-year-old girl.”5) ‘Hang him, but only after CBI probe into Kathua rape case’: Kathua rape and murder case alleged conspirator Sanji Ram’s family members have said that he should be hanged publicly but only if a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the case finds him guilty. The family members also criticised the media for portraying their agitation demading a CBI probe into the case as “pro-rapists” and “pro-culprits”. Ram’s family members have been demanding an “impartial investigation by a credible agency” into the Kathua case. Sixteen women, who were on a fast demanding a CBI probe into the case, have been hospitalised in the past 15 days.6) Kathua rape case accused Sanji Ram’s daughter asks how a father could call his son to rape a minor: One of Kathua rape case alleged conspirators Sanji Ram’s daughters questioned the crime branch’s investigation, asking how could a father call his son for raping a minor girl — as claimed in the charge sheet. “Can you imagine what this (statement in the crime branch’s charge sheet) means? It is shameful that someone says an old man called his young son from his college in UP to rape a little girl,” she said. Further, she claimed that the issue was being politicised and that her family’s voice was being muzzled in a political war.7) Lawyers who stopped police from filing Kathua case charge sheet could face lifetime ban: A panel has been constituted to probe the actions of Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association lawyers who had stopped the police from filing a charge sheet in the Kathua rape and murder case, the Bar Council of India (BCI) said on Sunday. Amid nation-wide outrage and the Supreme Court taking cognisance of the matter, BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said, “In the meeting, we decided that a five-member team will investigate the case. The team will go to Kathua and Jammu and talk to people about the conduct of the Bar Association.” Further, Mishra said that a report based on the investigation will be submitted to the Supreme Court by April 19.“If any lawyer is found guilty in the case, we have the rights to cancel their license for a lifetime,” Mishra said. The BCI chairman also said that the bar association has been told to withdraw its strike.Two first information reports (FIRs) have been filed in connection with the Kathua rape case: One against eight people for allegedly being involved in the crime and another against a group of lawyers, which had allegedly stopped the police from filing a charge sheet against the eight accused.8) Bar Association of Kathua takes back offer to defend Kathua rape accused free of cost: The Bar Association of Kathua has retracted its earlier statement of providing legal assistance free of cost to the accused in the Kathua rape case. It said that after going through the charge sheet presented by the crime branch (against the accused in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate on April 9), it was revealed that the allegations against the accused persons are very grave and, as such, this case is to be dealt with in a professional way.“As such, we have withdrawn our offer to contest the case free of cost. Accused are free to engage any individual advocate and exercise their respective rights of defence in the court. It is for any individual advocate to accept the brief and the bar association will not come in the way of defence nor the bar association will hamper the prosecution,” Bar Association of Kathua President Kirty Bhushan Mahajan said in a seven-page statement.Members of the same association had stopped crime branch personnel from submitting the charge sheet before the chief judicial magistrate for six hours, forcing the police to present it at the house of the magistrate.ALSO READ: JHCBA welcomes SC intervention in Kathua rape and murder case; says main demand was shifting of illegal settlers9) Mehbooba Mufti wants special fast-track court to try Kathua rape case: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had written to the chief justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court requesting that a special fast-track court be set up to try the brutal Kathua rape and murder case. It would complete the trial in 90 days and would be the first such court in state, officials said.Further, the state government decided to terminate from service the police personnel accused in the case.Read Mihir Sharma’s opinion piece for Business Standard on crimes against women in India in the wake of the Kathua and Unnao rape cases: The rape cases of 2012 & 2018 that shook the nation10) Protests in Delhi and Mumbai seek justice for Kathua and Unnao rape case victims: Outraged by th Kathua and Unnao rape cases, hundreds of people on Sunday participated in a protest march called “Not In My Name” at Parliament Street in the national capital against the increasing incidents of rape and atrocities on Dalits and minorities. The protest included artistes and students, who vented their anger over the incidents and claimed that Muslims in the country were living in fear. They said the rights of Dalits and Adivasis were being questioned.The participants at the “Not In My Name” protest also sought the immediate arrest of the two BJP ministers who led rallies of the Hindu Ekta Manch in Kathua on March 1 in support of the accused in the rape and killing of the eight-year-old girl.Bollywood celebrities, along with thousands of Mumbaikars, gathered on Sunday for a peaceful protest against the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua and the sexual assault of another young girl in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. Bollywood celebrities like Rajkummar Rao, Patralekha, Sameera Reddy, Twinkle Khanna, along with her son Arav, Akshay Kumar, actress Tara Sharma, music director Vishal Dadlani, singer and social activist Sona Mohapatra, filmmaker Kiran Rao, Aditi Rao Hydari, and veteran actress Helen were among many others who came on the streets of Bandra to protest against the incidents of rape and seek justice.
Source: Business Standard