Kathua rape-murder: SC allows J&K to file status report

The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch to file a status report in the Kathua gang rape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud posted for May 18 after the Jammu and Kashmir Police sought time to file a status report during the hearing of a plea by three witnesses in the Kathua rape-murder case who accused the state police of harassment.

Witnesses Sahil Sharma, Sachin Sharma and Neeraj Sharma, college friends of Vishal Jangotra, a key accused in the case, had approached the apex court saying the Crime Branch, during the probe, tortured and threatened them and their family, and sought protection by a central agency.

They were subjected to physical and mental torture from March 19 to March 31 by the state police officers, the witnesses alleged.

The three Jammu-based students, who are pursuing B.Sc in Agriculture at a college in Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, are classmates of Jangotra.

The students alleged that they were “coerced to make statements contrary to the facts that Jangotra was with them at Muzzafarnagar from January 7 to February 10. During that period, he, along with the petitioners, attended examinations and practical papers”.

They also alleged that despite recording their statements, they were being served with police notice to re-appear for re-recording of their statements.

The three witnesses also sought Rs 50 lakh each as compensation for the “physical and mental agony” and “loss of study and future prospects”.

On May 7, the apex court had transferred to Pathankot the trial in the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from a nomad family in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua because “fear and fair trial can’t exist together”.

The court had also ordered in-camera and day-to-day trial to ensure that witnesses felt protected and the accused felt safe.

The decision to transfer the trial from Kathua came on a plea by the victim’s father.

The girl went missing on January 10 when she was grazing horses close to her home in Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu region. Her body was found in the same area a week later.

The Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police, which investigated the case and has already filed a chargesheet, claimed that eight persons were involved in the crime, including two policemen, a juvenile, and a former Indian Revenue Service officer.