Published: Mon, June 10, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Six accused in Kathua rape and murder case held guilty, one acquitted

Six accused in Kathua rape and murder case held guilty, one acquitted

The verdict in the gang-rape, torture and killing of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua, which shocked and disturbed the country, is expected to be pronounced by a special court in Pathankot shortly.

Conflict had been brewing in recent years between Muslim nomads and local Hindus over land disputes.

The trial, held in private, began over a year ago in Pathankot, a town about 70 km (44 miles) from Rasana village in Kathua district, where the incident happened, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

One accused, Vishal, the son of the village head, has been acquitted for lack of evidence.

Forensic reports found that she had been drugged with anti-anxiety medication, repeatedly raped, burned, bludgeoned with a rock and strangled.

The child's mother has demanded capital punishment for two of those convicted - retired government officer Sanji Ram and police officer Deepak Khajuria - claiming that they were the "masterminds" behind the crime.

Convicted: Another of the men on trial was Deepak Khajuria (pictured outside court last year), a special police officer.

The girl was grazing her family's ponies in the forests of the Himalayan foothills when she was kidnapped in January past year. "We are satisfied with the investigation and are fully confident that the accused will be successfully tried in the court of law". Almost 20,000 child rape cases were reported in 2016, according to official data, while a 2014 United Nations report said one in three rape victims was a minor.

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.

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Head Constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Kumar were accused of destroying evidence of the crime.

In Pathankot, the district and sessions court had framed charges of rape and murder against the seven accused in the case. The prosecution team in the case comprises JK Chopra, SS Basra and Harminder Singh.

"Accordingly, on the basis of medical opinion, Section 376 (D) of the Indian Penal Code was added in the case".

All the accused, barring the juvenile, were shifted to Gurdaspur jail following an intervention by the Supreme Court which also restricted appearance of the defence lawyers and limited it to one or maximum of two per accused.

Prosecutors asked for the death penalty for three of those convicted.

The chargesheet said the girl had gone missing while grazing horses.

The girl's family approached India's Supreme Court for protection, saying they had received threats to their lives.

According to the crime branch, Sanji Ram, the main accused, is alleged to have hatched the conspiracy along with the other accused, to kidnap the girl as part of a strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area.

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