A special Pathankot court on Monday convicted six people accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir.
A seventh accused, Vishal, who is the son of main accused Sanji Ram, was acquitted. The quantum of punishment will be announced later on Monday. "The court has convicted six persons. Son of one of the accused Sanji Ram, Vishal has been acquitted," Farooqi Khan, lawyer of victim's family said after the sentencing.
The Supreme Court had on May 7, 2018, transferred the case from Kathua to Pathankot in Punjab. The in-camera trial in the case that shook the nation ended on June 3.
According to the 15-page charge sheet, the eight-year-old girl, who was kidnapped on January 10 last year, was allegedly raped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days before she was bludgeoned to death.
The day-to-day trial commenced in the first week of June last year at the district and sessions court in Pathankot in Punjab, about 100 km from Jammu and 30 km from Kathua, after the Supreme Court ordered that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir.
Those convicted are Sanji Ram, the village head, his juvenile nephew Anand Datta and two special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma. Also convicted are Head Constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Datta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
The girl's body was found on January 17 and autopsy confirmed gang rape and murder.
The court had framed charges under the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), including Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang-rape), according to the prosecution.
The accused face minimum life imprisonment and maximum death penalty.
The court also framed charges of destruction of evidence and causing hurt by poisoning under Section 328 of the RPC. The two policemen - Raj and Datta - were also charged under Section 161 (public servant taking illegal gratification) of the RPC.
The case had become a bone of contention between the then ruling alliance partners PDP and the BJP after two ministers of the saffron party, Chowdhury Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, participated in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused arrested by the state crime branch.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti Monday welcomed a court order convicting six accused in the Kathua rape-and-murder case.
"Amen to that. The guilty deserve the most severe punishment possible under law. And to those politicians who defended the accused, vilified the victim & threatened the legal system no words of condemnation are enough," Abdullah tweeted.
He was reacting to the Pathankot court verdict convicting six of the seven accused in the rape-and-murder case of the eight-year-old nomadic girl in Rasana area of Kathua district in January last year.
"Welcome the judgement. High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8 year old child was drugged, raped repeatedly & then bludgeoned to death. Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited & culprits get exemplary punishment," Mehbooba tweeted.
Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal lauded the police for securing the conviction of the accused persons.
"Congratulations to @JmuKmrPolice for getting Raisina Kathua rapists convicted. Politicians tried their best to sabotage the movement for justice to A (the victim). But the Hon’ble Court and the law enforcement agencies stood their ground. Pray we never have to see such horror again," he tweeted.