Life sentences for Kathua rape trio
Five-year jail for three cops for destroying proof
- Published 11.06.19, 6:01 AM
- Updated 11.06.19, 6:01 AM
- 3 mins read
A special court on Monday jailed three men for the remainder of their lives for the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir last year in a case that had sparked countrywide outrage and led to a change in the laws against sexual violence.
Three other men — all of them police officers —too were convicted in the case and sentenced to five years in prison for destruction of evidence.
A seventh suspect, the son of Sanji Ram, one of the main accused, was acquitted, the court giving him the “benefit of the doubt”, after the year-long in-camera trial.
The crime branch had arrested an eighth suspect too — a nephew of Ram — but the trial against him is yet to begin as his petition on determining whether he was a juvenile when the crime was committed is to be heard by Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The case had prompted Parliament to adopt the death penalty for rapists of girls younger than 12.
According to the 15-page chargesheet filed in April 2018, the girl was kidnapped on January 10 while she was out grazing horses, kept sedated for four days in a small village temple exclusively manned by Ram, and sexually assaulted before being strangled and bludgeoned to death.
The abduction, rape and murder were part of a carefully planned strategy to scare the minority nomadic community off the area, the chargesheet said.
Investigators had said the eighth accused had abducted the girl on the pretext of helping her find her horses.
The prosecution team of lawyers J.K. Chopra, S.S. Basra, Harminder Singh and Bhupinder Singh issued a brief statement, saying they would examine the judgment and might appeal against the acquittal of Ram’s son.
“We have sought (the) capital punishment for all (the) three accused convicted of murder and gang rape. It was (the) hard work (by) all of us and a perfect blend of investigation and legal brains (that led to the convictions). We have achieved (a) 99 per cent result,” the prosecution statement said.
“This is a victory for truth,” lawyer M. Farooqi said. “The girl and her family have got justice today.”
Defence lawyer Vikram Mahajan said all the six convicts would appeal.
The day-to-day trial had started in the first week of June last year at the district and sessions court in Pathankot in Punjab, about 100km from Jammu and 30km from Kathua, a month after the Supreme Court ordered the case shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir.
The top court’s order had come after the lawyers and some BJP politicians in Kathua — in the Hindu-majority Jammu division — had prevented crime branch officials from filing a chargesheet.
On Monday, the district and sessions court convicted Ram, the caretaker of the temple where the crime took place; Deepak Khajuria, a special police officer, and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian, under Ranbir Penal Code sections relating to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnap, gang rape, destruction of evidence, drugging the victim and common intention, the lawyers said.
“The perpetrators of this crime have acted in such a manner as if there is a ‘law of jungle’ prevalent in society,” judge Tejwinder Singh said.
The three main accused have been sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs 1 lakh each after being convicted of criminal conspiracy and murder, said a lawyer for the prosecution. “Life imprisonment” means jail till the end of one’s life, the lawyer said.
The three have also been handed jail terms for various other offences.
Three other accused — sub-inspector Anand Dutta, head constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma — who were found guilty of destruction of evidence, have been handed five-year terms. Raj and Dutta are alleged to have taken Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
Failure to deposit the fine would mean an additional six months in jail, the lawyer said.
Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra was acquitted, said Farooqi Khan, who represented the victim’s family in the court.
The verdict was announced away from the gaze of the reporters who had gathered outside the premises.