ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS A special court in Pathankot in Punjab on Monday delivered its verdict in the case of the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua last year, finding six of the seven accused guilty. A juvenile accused in the case was not tried in Pathankot as a petition regarding his age is being heard in court.
The rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl, hailing from a minority nomadic community in Kathua, Jammu, had triggered nationwide outrage in 2018. According to the charge-sheet, the victim was kidnapped on January 10 that year and was sedated and raped in a small temple in Kathua before being killed. The charge-sheet noted the victim was targeted as part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area.
The Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch had arrested village head Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, juvenile nephew and his friend Parvesh Kumar and two special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma. Head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, were also arrested. Charges were framed against seven of the eight accused in the case; the trial of the juvenile is yet to begin as a petition to determine his age is being heard in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Only Vishal, the son of Sanji Ram, was acquitted by the court. Sanji Ram, a former government employee, has been considered the 'mastermind' of the Kathua rape and murder case.
The Kathua case triggered dissension in the then ruling PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir as two BJP ministers had participated in a rally organised in support of the accused by the Hindu Ekta Manch. The Supreme Court in May last year shifted the trial in the Kathua case from Jammu and Kashmir to Punjab after lawyers in Kathua attempted to prevent the police from filing a charge-sheet in the case. All the accused, except the juvenile, were shifted to Gurdaspur in Punjab.
The in-camera trial in the Kathua rape and murder case commenced in June 2018. The punishment for rape and murder of the minor girl could be a minimum sentence of life imprisonment and maximum of the death penalty.
Officials said on Sunday elaborate security arrangements have been made around the court premises in Pathankot as well as in Kathua.