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Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ has agreed to hear the plea of three witnesses in the Kathua gangrape and murder case, alleging that they are being harassed by the state police, on May 16.

The said witnesses, who are college friends of the juvenile accused in the case, have alleged that they gave their statement to the police under coercion and that the state police was now asking them to re-appear and re-record their statements and exerting pressure in their families.

The Supreme Court had, on May 7, transferred the trial in the sensational Kathua gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab, but refrained from handing over the probe to CBI saying there was no need as the investigation has been conducted and the chargesheet filed.

Emphasising on the concept of fair trial, the Court had said:

“In the instant case, direct victims are the family members of the deceased, although ultimately collective is the victim of such crime. The fair trial commands that there has to be free atmosphere where the victims, the accused and the witnesses feel safe. They must not suffer from any kind of phobia while attending the court. Fear and fair trial are contradictory in terms and they cannot be allowed to co-exist.”

(With inputs from PTI)

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Taking note of the seriousness of the issue relating to the abduction, rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua District of J&K in the month of January, the bench of 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Dr. DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ transferred the trial of the matter from the District & Sessions Judge, Kathua to the District & Sessions Judge, Pathankot situate in the State of Punjab.

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the family of the victim, had argued before the Court that since there have been some unwarranted situations that have occurred in and outside the Kathua Bar Association, the locality in question, the involvement of many groups and various other aspects, a fair trial was not possible at Kathua.

Stating that a fair trial is a sacrosanct principle under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and a ‘fair trial’ means fair to the accused persons, as well as to the victims of the crime, the Court issued the following directions while transferring the matter to Pathankot:

  • The learned District & Sessions Judge, Pathankot shall himself take up the trial and not assign it to any Additional Sessions Judge;
  • The learned District & Sessions Judge, Pathankot shall fast-track the trial and take it up on day-to-day basis so that there is no delay in trial;
  • The examination-in-chief and the cross-examination of witnesses shall be in a continuous manner and for no reasons whatsoever the same shall be deferred;
  • The trial shall be held in camera so that the witnesses feel protected and the accused persons feel safe;
  • As this Court is monitoring the matter, no court shall entertain any petition pertaining to this case; The transferee court shall proceed under the Ranbir Penal Code as that applies to the State of Jammu & Kashmir;
  • The statements of the witnesses that have been recorded in Urdu language shall be translated to English so that the transferee court does not face any difficulty in conducting the trial;
  • The State of Jammu & Kashmir shall provide requisite number of interpreters as directed by the learned District & Sessions Judge, Pathankot so that the deposition of the witnesses can be properly recorded and translated copies thereof can be provided to the accused persons;
  • It shall be the duty of the State of Jammu & Kashmir to transport the witnesses to Pathankot and provide all other necessary facilities, including food, etc. so that the witnesses do not face any difficulty;
  • The accused persons shall also be similarly treated so that they do not feel that solely because they are accused persons, they are presumed to be guilty, for it is the settled principle that they are innocent till they are found guilty;
  • The State of Jammu & Kashmir is granted liberty to appoint the Public Prosecutor for prosecution of the case;
  • The juvenile, who is facing the trial, shall be dealt with in accordance with law and he should be given all special care and protection as per the command of the law.

Emphasising on the concept of fair trial, the Court said:

“In the instant case, direct victims are the family members of the deceased, although ultimately collective is the victim of such crime. The fair trial commands that there has to be free atmosphere where the victims, the accused and the witnesses feel safe. They must not suffer from any kind of phobia while attending the court. Fear and fair trial are contradictory in terms and they cannot be allowed to co-exist.”

The Court also reiterated that the protection granted by it to victim’s family & lawyers via order dated 16th April, 2018, shall continue and shall not be varied till the trial is over.

[Mohd. Akhtar v. State of Jammu & Kashmir, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 494, order dated 07.05.2018]

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Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Dr. DY Chandrachud and the newly appointed Indu Malhotra, JJ, stayed the trial in the Kathua gangrape and murder case till 07.05.2018, after being seized with petitions seeking shifting of the trial to Chandigarh and handing over the investigation to the CBI. Posting the matter for further hearing on 07.05.2018, the Court said that it will deal with the prayer of the victim’s father for shifting the trial to Chandigarh and the plea of the accused seeking handing over the probe to CBI.

During the hearing, the Court witnessed heated exchanges between Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the victim’s family, and advocate Harvinder Chaudhary, representing the accused.

Indira Jaising said that the case be transferred to Chandigarh due to proximity to Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the incidents of obstruction of police personnel by lawyers of the local court. She said that attempts were made to intimidate the presiding judge of the court and the crime branch officials were heckled by the lawyers, as is evident in the affidavit of Jammu and Kashmir Government.

Harvinder Chaudhary, on the other hand, said that his clients do not have faith in police investigation and the probe should go to CBI. He alleged that the police was hand-in-glove with vested interests to falsely implicate the accused while the real culprits were someone else.

Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, opposed the prayer for a CBI probe and said the SIT of the crime branch was investigating the case. He said that the trial could be shifted from Kathua and Jammu to some other district in the state as there were 221 witnesses and most of the statements recorded so far were in Urdu. It was also argued that Jammu and Kashmir has its own penal law and if the trial is shifted to Chandigarh, then it may create several problems.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh submitted before the Court that the Central Government was ready to provide any assistance if required but the call has to be taken by the Jammu and Kashmir government.

The 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. It had also directed the State of Jammu & Kashmir to grant protection to the family members of the 8-year old girl, who had been brutally abducted, raped and murdered in Kathua district of J&K in the month of January 2018. The Court also directed that protection be granted to the Deepika Singh Rajawat, the lawyer representation the victim’s family, and one Talib Hussain, who has been rendering assistance to the victim’s family.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ directed the State of Jammu & Kashmir to grant protection to the family members of the 8-year old girl, who had been brutally abducted, raped and murdered in Kathua district of J&K in the month of January 2018. The Court also directed that protection be granted to the Deepika Singh Rajawat, the lawyer representation the victim’s family, and one Talib Hussain, who has been rendering assistance to the victim’s family.

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising had submitted before the Court that there was apprehension in the mind of the father of the victim, that there would be no fair trial inasmuch as there has been protest by the members of the Bar and further there may be issues relating to witness protection. She had told that Court that there should be protection for the victim as well as the lawyer who has a right to protect the interest of the victims in the Court.

On the demand of Indira Jaising, the Court also directed that the State authority should provide security in plain clothes. The Court also directed the State authorities to do the needful, keeping in view the spirit of the care and protection of Children, and strengthen the security at juvenile home where the alleged juvenile accused is lodged.

Earlier, the Court had taken suo motu cognizance in the matter and had issued notice to Bar Council of India, Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association, Jammu High Court Bar Association and Kathua Bar Association on a plea filed against the lawyers for allegedly blocking the filing of charge sheet in the matter and obstructing a lawyer from representing the victim’s family.

The Court will now take up the matter on 27.04.2018. [Mohd. Akhtar v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 386, order dated 16.04.2018]

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Supreme Court: Taking suo motu cognizance in the Kathua rape and murder case, the Court has issued notice to Bar Council of India, Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association, Jammu High Court Bar Association and Kathua Bar Association on a plea filed against the lawyers for allegedly blocking the filing of charge sheet in the matter and obstructing a lawyer from representing the victim’s family

Earlier this week, lawyers held a protest against the charge sheet filed against seven people accused of kidnapping, raping and killing an eight-year-old girl in January. The Bar Association of Jammu reportedly supported the lawyers and also organised a strike against the FIR.

The Bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra said that it is impermissible under law and ethics to prevent the filing of a chargesheet or oppose the representation of the victim’s family by a lawyer.

In the horrific Kathua case, an 8-year-old girl was held captive, sedated and raped for several days at a temple before she was murdered in Kathua district.

The Court will now hear the matter on April 19.

Source: ANI