Kathua gang-rape and murder: Trial begins today as J&K govt appoints two Sikh lawyers for neutrality

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The trial in the Kathua gang-rape and murder will start today against eight accused including a juvenile, who held 8-year-old Asifa captive inside a temple, where she was sedated and sexually attacked repeatedly before being mercilessly killed in January this year.

Kathua
Two rape accused

The Chief Judicial Magistrate, who had controversially refused to accept the chargesheet prepared the Crime Branch officials few days ago, will be committing one of the chargesheets, in which seven people have been named, to the sessions court for trial as mandated under the law, reported PTI. The juvenile will face the trial at the CJM court as mandated under juvenile justice act.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has appointed two senior lawyers, both Sikhs, as special public prosecutors understandably to ensure neutrality in the case, which has severely polarised opinions based on Hindu and Muslim. Kathua Bar Association had shamed the country’s justice system when they prevented the Crime Branch officials from submitting the chargesheet against the rape accused. They had then called for Kathua bandh in support of the rape accused on 12 April. The Bar Association of Kathua had even offered legal assistance to all the rape accused. However, after the Supreme Court’s intervention, they were forced to retract their statement.

The Supreme Court on 13 April had slammed the lawyers, who obstructed the justice system and observed that such impediment “affects the dispensation of justice and would amount to obstruction of access to justice”.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud was also critical of the Jammu High Court Bar Association, which had passed a resolution not to attend the courts saying “it is the duty of the bar association as a collective body and they cannot obstruct the process of law”.

The lawyer representing the victim’s family, Deepika Singh, too is expected to move the Supreme Court on Monday asking for the case to be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir. She told reporters that the local lawyers’ body had threatened her of dire consequences if she did not stop representing Asifa’s case.

She told ANI, “I don’t know till when I will be alive. I can be raped, my modesty can be outraged, I can be killed, I can be damaged. I was threatened yesterday that ‘we will not forgive you’. I am going to tell SC tomorrow that I am in danger.”

The act by Jammu Bar Association was widely seen as pro-rapist and anti-national. The development also evoked angry reactions from around the world. It took an unprecedented outrage by politicians and members of India’s civil society for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence. Speaking on the rape cases, Modi said last week that guilty will not be spared. However, the same day, one of her MPs, Meenakshi Lekhi, was profusely defending her party’s cabinet ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government (now sacked), saying that they were misled. A report by Janta Ka Reporter and the subsequent emergence of a video (watch below) conclusively established that the two ministers had joined the rally taken out by Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the rapists. While at the rally, the two BJP ministers had also made extremely insensitive remarks on Asifa’s rape and murder.

On Saturday, a British MP, had slammed PM Modi calling the incident a disgrace to India’s democracy. Khalid Mahmood had exclusively told Janta Ka Reporter that India had now become the rape capital of the world under Modi.

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