Even though Kathua rape and murder case is sub judice, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu and Kashmir has started circulating a video that seeks to rubbish police charge-sheet and endorses demand of the accused persons for a CBI probe.
The trial in the rape and murder case has been stayed by the Supreme Court till May 7. The apex court is currently seized with various petitions seeking shifting of the trial to Chandigarh and handing over the investigation to the CBI. Ironically, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last month told the Indian diaspora in London that there should not be any politics over the issue.
Under scathing criticism, BJP on April 13 had forced its two ministers—forest minister Chaudhary Lal Singh and industries and commerce minister Chander Prakash Ganga—to resign from the state cabinet after they were sent to an event organised by Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused persons. While their presence had triggered national outrage, their resignations came minutes after PM Modi broke his radio silence over the issue.
Nearly 21 days later, the state BJP has uploaded a video on its website, in which a lawyer has rubbished the Crime Branch probe and endorsed the demand of Hindu Ekta Manch for a CBI probe into the case.
The video labelled 'A big expose on Kathua facts’, that features Supreme Court advocate Monika Arora, is being shared by the party’s IT cell on several social networking sites. In the 26-minute-long clip, the lawyer has raised doubts if the 8-year-old was raped or not, claiming that the police probe can’t be trusted.
Arora is part of the five-member group that also included Meera Khadkkar, retired district judge, Nagpur; Sarjana Sharma, Kashmir journalist; Sonali Chitalkar, assistant professor, Department of Political Science, Miranda House, Delhi University; and, Monicca Agarwaal, a social activist. The group which calls itself ‘Group of Intellectuals and Academicians’ recently submitted a “fact-finding report” to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister in PMO Jitendra Singh—who has reportedly promised to forward it to the court in Jammu and Kashmir.
The team visited Kathua on April 23 and 24 and found many "loopholes" in the investigation by the Jammu and Kashmir Police. “There is a strong case for handing over the Kathua incident case to the CBI. This will not only assuage the insecurities of the people of Jammu, but also rectify the blatant inconsistencies in the case as documented in the report,” the report read. Here are the major takeaways from the report:
Nevertheless, BJP’s renewed campaign for CBI probe while lampooning state police is likely to jolt PDP-BJP alliance again. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti upholds the Crime Branch probe and has lambasted those supporting the accused persons in the case that has had Jammu on the edge for the past three months.
Pertinently, earlier the Bar Council of India (BCI) in an alleged cover up had given clean chit to the Jammu and Kathua Bar Associations, while overlooking glaring evidence of misconduct and hooliganism.
On April 13, the Supreme Court took serious note of the conduct of the lawyers at Kathua court, and sought explanations from the BCI, Jammu and Kashmir Bar Council, Jammu High Court Bar Association and Kathua District Bar Association.
The five-member fact-finding team of BCI in its “lopsided” report had concluded that the lawyers in Kathua did not restrict any official of the Crime Branch from filing the chargesheet before the court. The team also did not bother to meet the Crime Branch team or consider the FIR filed by the state police against the lawyers for “using criminal force upon the police” and “disallowing them from discharging their legitimate duties”. In fact the team in its report had accused media of misreporting the facts.
Significantly, the report of the Principal District and Sessions Judge Kathua, the state government and an affidavit filed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court stated that the lawyers indeed obstructed the Crime Branch team from filing the chargesheet in the court of chief judicial magistrate Kathua and that the police finally submitted the chargesheet at the judge’s official residence later in the evening.
Coincidentally, chairman Bar Council of India, Manan Kumar Mishra is a member of the BJP as well. And both the fact-finding report by ‘Group of Intellectuals and Academicians’ and the video have come ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on Monday, May 7.