The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the trial in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakerwal nomadic girl in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir as it asked the accused to respond to the plea for the transfer of trial to Chandigarh.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and newly sworn in Justice Indu Malhotra stayed the trial which was listed for Saturday in Kathua, saying it would hold a hearing on the plea for transfer of trial on May 7.
The bench was hearing plea filed by the victim’s family for transfer of the case outside the state, preferably to Chandigarh in the “interest of fair trial in view of obstruction by lawyers.”
Referring to the a report filed by a committee of the Bar Council of India that claimed that lawyers of the Kathua Bar Association did not restrict officials of the Crime Branch from submitting the charge sheet to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, senior lawyer Indira Jaising, who appeared for the victim’s family, quoted another report filed by the office of the Principal District and Sessions Judge Kathua to Registrar General, J&K High Court, Jammu.
The report has clearly stated that “…on April 9, at around 4 pm, a team of Crime Branch came with the challan. As soon as the team arrived in the premises of the court outside the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Kathua, a group of lawyers resorted to massive protest and intense sloganeering. The lawyers numbering about 40-45 raised slogans against the Crime Branch and in the meanwhile some people from press also reached and started giving coverage to the demonstration....The accused seven in number were brought in custody in police vehicle, which was parked in the parking area of the court premises, but they could not be produced in the court of learned Chief Judicial Magistrate Kathua because of the continued protest demonstration by lawyers...in the meantime, the court time was over but the court time was over , but the demonstration by the lawyers continued. The team of Crime Branch officials made a hasty retreat from the court premises and took accused alongwith them. The learned Chief Judicial Magistrate Kathua remained in his office chamber till 6 pm and scrutinized the challan, which was found to be duly compiled. The lawyers also remained standing outside the court of learned Chief Judicial Magistrate Kathua, raising slogans...In view of the sensitive nature of the case, the Crime Branch officials were advised to bring the accused to the official residence of learned Chief Judicial Magistrate Kathua ...”
She also quoted the press statement that was issued by Kathua Bar Association on the evening of April 9. In the statement Kathuia Bar had boasted of how it obstructed filing of the charge sheet: "All the members of the Bar have strongly agitated against the presentation of challan (charge sheet) by the crime branch in the Rasana case… the agitation of the bar proved successful and the crime branch was compelled to go back and the challan could not be presented in the court of chief judicial magistrate Kathua.”
During a high voltage hearing, the lawyer for the accused interfered when Indira Jaising for victim’s family was arguing and said at the top of her voice: “The accused have been falsely implicated. We are ready for narco-analysis. A tainted official is involved in the probe. We are questioning the validity of the probe... this is injustice”.
Jaising shot back: “All this is being said for the benefit of the press who are present in the courtroom in large numbers. Your lordships must note this. Wild charges. They are asking for a CBI probe as they know that the police have and are doing a great job.”
Demanding that the trial be transferred to Chandigarh due to proximity factors, Indira Jaising earlier argued that a sex scandal case that rocked Jammu and Kashmir was also transferred to Chandigarh in 2006 in the same manner.
Earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir government had opposed the transfer of the trial saying that it had a different penal code and transfer of trial would pose inconvenience to the witnesses.
Meanwhile, the Centre on Friday told the top court that it would extend whatever assistance was required from it. The Centre is a respondent in a related petition seeking transfer of investigation from the Jammu and Kashmir Police to the Central Bureau of Investigation, a plea opposed by the rape-cum-murder victim's father.
The bench also said it will hear on May 7 detailed arguments for a CBI probe filed by two accused in the case.
With IANS inputs.