“Wheels of justice have completely collapsed”: Mehbooba Mufti reacts angrily after Punjab and Haryana High Court grants bail to convict in Kathua rape and murder case


Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has angrily after the Punjab and Haryana High Court sensationally granted bail to convict Anand Dutta in the Kathua rape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl Asifa. Dutta is a dismissed cop, who was sentenced to five years of imprisonment in the case. The high court recently suspended his remaining sentence and granted him bail.

Reacting to the development, Mufti tweeted, “Perturbed that the policeman convicted for destroying evidence in Kathua rape case was granted bail & his jail term suspended. When a child raped & bludgeoned to death is deprived of justice, it becomes obvious that the wheels of justice have completely collapsed.”

The gang-rape and murder of eight-year-old Asifa inside a Hindu temple had sent shockwaves across the world. Senior BJP leaders had staged a protest rally holding India’s national flags in support of the rapists and murderers.

In 2019, a sessions court in Pathankot had convicted Dutta along with head constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma for destroying the evidence in the case. The prime accused in the case, Sanji Ram, had allegedly paid a bribe of Rs. 4 lakh to these cops to destroy the evidence.

Last week, the Bench of Justices Tejinder Singh Dhindsa and Vinod S. Bhardwaj decided that Dutta’s sentence should be suspended and the convict released on bail. Earlier on 16 December, the sentence of Tilak Raj was suspended.

Persons convicted by Pathankot court were Sanji Ram, Anand Dutta, Parvesh Kumar, Deepak Khajuria, Surender Verma and Tilak Raj. Accused Vishal, son of Sanji Ram was acquitted for lack of evidence. The case was transferred out of Jammu and Kashmir to Punjab after the judiciary’s integrity became questionable.

Kathua gangrape and murder case

The 8-year-old child was gang-raped by members of the right-wing Hindutva supporters inside a local temple for several days after she was administered sedatives to 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 of Jammu Bar Association, which threw its support behind the rape accused and prevented the crime branch officials from entering the court premises to submit the charge-sheet 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 case, Modi had said that the 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 then Jammu and Kashmir government, saying that they were misled. A report by Janta Ka Reporter and the subsequent emergence of a video  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 the little girl’s rape and murder.

Doctors, after examining the viscera, had said that the medicine administered to the victim contained Clonazepam salt and had to be administered under medical supervision keeping in mind the age and weight of the patient.

“Considering her (victim) 30-kg body weight, the therapeutic dose of 0.1 to 0.2 mgs per day divided in three doses for patient (is recommended).

“She was forcefully administered five tablets of Clonazepam of 0.5 mg each on January 11, 2018 which is higher than the safe therapeutic dose. Subsequently, more tablets were given…the signs and symptoms of an overdose may include drowsiness, confusion, impaired coordination, slow reflexes, slowed or stopped breathing, coma (loss of consciousness) and death,” the PTI quoted the doctors’ opinion.

The Supreme Court had later transferred the case out of Jammu and Kashmir after the victim’s family raised questions on the impartiality of the local court. The case is now being heard in Punjab’s Pathankot. The opinion would be submitted before the district and sessions court in Punjab’s Pathankot, hearing the matter, after the summer break next week.

The crime branch in April had said, “It is to place on record that on the basis of opinion furnished by medical experts, it was confirmed that the victim was found subjected to sexual assault by the accused.

“Accordingly, on the basis of medical opinion, Section 376 (D) of the Indian Penal Code was added in the case. The medical opinion also established beyond doubt that the victim was held in captivity and administered sedatives and the cause of her death was asphyxia leading to a cardiopulmonary arrest.”