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Cold sweat gave Sanji Ram away, says police officer probing Kathua rape and murder

Sanji Ram, along with two others, were convicted for life by a sessions court in Pathankot on Monday

By PTI in Jammu
  • Published 12.06.19, 6:02 AM
  • Updated 12.06.19, 6:14 AM
  • 2 mins read
Sanji Ram being escorted to the court on Monday PTI picture

Sweat on his face on a chilly January morning gave Sanji Ram away, the police officer who led the investigation into the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua said on Tuesday.

Sanji Ram, along with two others, were convicted for life by a sessions court in Pathankot on Monday.

R.K. Jalla, the chief investigator who retired three months ago, had been handed the case on January 27, 2018.

One of the most decorated police officers in Jammu and Kashmir, Jalla spoke to PTI about the challenges his team from the crime branch faced.

“After having investigated the crime scene, we went to meet Sanji Ram (temple caretaker and one of the main accused). As my team and I started enquiring about his family members, including his arrested juvenile nephew, I asked about his son Vishal,” Jalla, 60, said.

“Sanji Ram immediately told me in a boastful voice that his son was studying in Meerut and I could go and check his CDR (call data record). I started wondering about two things — why is he insisting that I check Vishal’s call records and second, why the hell is he sweating on a chilly morning of January,” the retired officer added.

The sessions court in Pathankot has sentenced Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parwesh Kumar to life and three dismissed policemen — Anand Dutta, Tikal Raj and Surinder Singh — to five years in jail.

Vishal was acquitted. Jalla’s only regret in the case was Vishal’s release, with the court granting him benefit of doubt. “I can only hope that an appeal is filed challenging the acquittal,” he said.

Jalla said Sanji Ram made every attempt to save his son. “I can only hope that the evidence collected by the crime branch during a painstaking investigation is appreciated by the high court.”

Inspector-general (crime) Ahfadul Mujtaba had said on Monday that the police would file an appeal against Vishal’s acquittal.

The case had assumed political dimensions with at least two former BJP leaders, Lal Singh and Ganga Singh, joining a protest march in March last year during which the release of Sanji Ram and the others was demanded.

The ties between the PDP and the BJP, which were then in an alliance to run the government, had strained during the probe. Jalla said he “had received not a single call from any of the BJP leaders”.

“There was no political pressure whatsoever on me or my team and we were doing our job with complete dedication and honesty,” he added.

Jalla was part of the first batch of police officers who joined the Special Operations Group — an anti-militancy crack force formed in the early 90s. He retired on March 31 this year as senior superintendent of police (crime branch).

The officer’s role was appreciated by the prosecution team of S.S. Basra, J.K. Chopra, Bhupinder Singh and Harminder Singh, who said Jalla had laid a strong foundation that ensured defence witnesses were on the back foot.

Chopra, who led the prosecution team along with Basra, said Jalla’s dedication ensured that many of the defence witnesses who had backtracked were produced in court.

Jalla said it was never a one-man show. “It is absolutely wonderful team work where the prosecution and the investigators were always on the same page. It was possibly the first time that the prosecution did not seek a single adjournment,” he said.

Jalla smiled and added that the Kathua case made him revisit all that had been taught to him during training at the police academy.