Calcutta, Aug. 12: The hearing of the Kamduni rape-and-murder case was shifted from the Barasat court to the city sessions court in Calcutta today after the high court granted the prayers of the accused and the state government despite objections from the victim’s family.
Both the accused and the state government had pleaded for the trial to be shifted, arguing that “free-and-fair justice” was not possible in Barasat as hundreds of villagers were assembling outside the court during every hearing and lawyers were refusing to appear for the accused.
“The venue of the trial is shifted for free-and-fair justice…. The Barasat court shall transfer the records of the case to the city sessions court within two days of receiving this order,” Justice Ashim Kumar Roy of Calcutta High Court said in his order.
The victim’s brother said he was not happy with the high court’s verdict.
“The Barasat court is half an hour from our village. Going to a Calcutta court and coming back will take an entire day,” he said.
“We will move higher courts, including the Supreme Court, if necessary, challenging today’s order,” he said.
Kamduni residents said they had no idea where the city sessions court was located and cited the distance as one of the reasons for their opposition to the shift.
The villagers attributed motives to the plea by the state government and the accused for the shift.
“Since the Barasat court had raised some questions on the process of the investigation and forced the investigators to file a fresh chargesheet, the state government and the accused wanted to shift the trial venue,” a resident said.
Today’s order followed two separate petitions — by Anandamoy Chatterjee, the investigating officer, and by the eight arrested accused.
While the investigating officer had prayed for a shift for the purpose of “speedy disposal” of the case, the accused had argued that they could not defend themselves as lawyers had refused to appear for them.
The Barasat bar association had taken a resolution that they would not represent the accused.
The high court said today: “After going through the reports placed by the Barasat district and sessions judge and newspaper reports, this court feels that an agitating mob is not allowing the lawyers to appear for the accused persons.”
The order added: “Article 22 of the Indian Constitution has given the right to the accused to defend themselves by the lawyers of their choice.”
In his order, Justice Roy also directed the state government to provide vehicles to the witnesses when they visit the city sessions court for deposition.
“If the witnesses opt for private vehicles, the state will have to provide the same,” the order said.
A division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mishra had directed the judiciary to dispose of the trial of the Kamduni case within two months of framing of charges.
The court passed the order in connection with a PIL demanding a probe by a special investigating team under the supervision of the court.