New Delhi: A special court ruled today on the brutal gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua last year. Six of the seven accused were convicted and one was acquitted.
The three main accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, while the rest were sentenced to five years in prison.
The convicts include Sanji Ram, his nephew and one of his friends, and three police personnel. The police personnel were accused of taking money to destroy evidence. Another one of Sanji Ram’s juvenile nephews was not included in this trial.
Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the temple where the crime took place, Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian, have been convicted under Ranbir Penal Code sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gangrape, destruction of evidence, drugging the victim and common intention, the lawyers said.
They have been sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs 1 lakh each for murder along with 25 years in jail for gangrape.
Three accomplices – sub inspector Anand Dutta, head constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma – have been sentenced to five years in prison.
The acquitted person was prime accused Sanji Ram’s son Vishal. The trial judge accepted Vishal’s alibi that he was taking an exam in Muzaffarnagar on the date of the incident.
The case became controversial and difficult to investigate as Bharatiya Janata Party leaders participated in rallies organised by Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused. Lawyers bodies also protested the investigation into the case. The lawyer for the victim’s family received death threats.
The eight-year-old girl was kidnapped on January 10 last year and raped inside a village temple in Kathua district. She was from the Bakharwal nomadic community. The investigation showed that she was kept sedated while kidnapped, raped then bludgeoned to death.
The convicts have the option of appealing their sentence and punishment at higher courts.
There is also a juvenile accused in the case, who cannot be named by law and is subjected to a different process of trial and punishment. The trial in his case has not begun as there is a dispute regarding his actual age.
The mother of the eight-year-old has been telling the media that she wants the death penalty for the convicts. “We want justice. We want them to hang,” she reportedly told India Today.
The horrific nature of the case triggered major outcry from the public and in the media.
Owing to the sensitivity of the case, and the resistance put up by lawyers to prevent the police from filing chargesheets, the Supreme Court ordered that the case be shifted out of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and finally a special court was set up in Pathankot, where an in-camera trial (closed to the public and media) was conducted.
Over 1,000 security personnel have reportedly been deployed at various points in the state, in case of an agitation following this verdict.
(With inputs from PTI)