In yet another extraordinary development, a Supreme Court bench headed Chief Justice Dipak Misra stayed the the trial in the case of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir till 7 May.
The victim’s family had moved the apex court seeking the transfer of the trial in lower court outside Jammu and Kashmir, preferably in Chandigarh in view of threats and intimidation faced by the defence team. But the bench also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and the newly elevated Indu Malhotra stayed the trial in lower court instead.
A report by legal website, LiveLaw, said that the lawyer for the accused, Harvinder Chaudhary, interfered when the victim’s lawyer Indira Jaising was arguing and shouted at the top of her voice, “The accused have been falsely implicated. We are ready for narco-analysis. A tainted official is involved in the probe. We are questioning the validity of the probe.. this is injustice.”
Jaising reportedly shot back, “All this is being said for the benefit of the press who are present in the courtroom in large numbers. Your lordships must note this. Wild charges. They are asking for a CBI probe as they know that the police have and are doing a great job”. The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra today stayed the trial in the sensational gangrape and murder case of a seven-year-old girl.”
Chaudhary, according to PTI, said that her clients did not have faith in police investigation and the probe should go to the CBI. She alleged that the police were hand-in-glove with vested interests to falsely implicate the accused while the real culprits were someone else.
Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, along with standing counsel Shoeb Alam, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, opposed the prayer for a CBI probe and said the special investigation team of the Crime Branch was investigating the case.
The Kathua Bar Association had stopped the Crime Branch officials from submitting the charge-sheet in the lower court earlier this month. Even the judge had refused to accept the charge-sheet thereby raising serious doubts on the impartial role of the judiciary in Kathua. But, the Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Misra said that it would deal with the prayer of the victim’s father for shifting the trial to Chandigarh and the plea of the accused seeking the handing over the probe to the CBI next month.
According to the charge-sheet filed by the state crime branch, the 8-year-old was gang-raped by members of the Hindutva ideology inside a local temple for several days after she was administered sedative keep her unconscious. One local police officer, also involved in the crime, had requested his accomplices to let him rape the 8-year-old child for one last time before killing her.
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 had said 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.