A court in Pathankot, hearing the brutal gang rape-and-murder case of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, on Thursday framed charges against seven of the eight accused, paving way for beginning of trial against them, officials said.
The district and sessions court has framed charges under various sections of the Ranbir Penal Code including 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang rape), special public prosecutor J K Chopra said in Pathankot.
The accused against whom charges were framed were Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, special police officers Deepak Khajuria alias Deepu and Surinder Verma, Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, head constable Tilak Raj, and sub-inspector Arvind Datta.
Sanji Ram is considered to be the main accused who is alleged to have hatched the conspiracy with other accused for kidnapping the girl as a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area.
The fate of the eighth accused, who is a juvenile and nephew of Sanji Ram, was yet to be decided after the crime branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police claimed that he was an adult, Chopra said.
The court also framed charges for destruction of evidence and under Section 328 (causing hurt by poisoning with an intent to hurt) of the RPC.
The two policemen -- Tilak Raj and Arvind Datta -- were also charged under Section 161 (public servant taking illegal gratification) of the RPC, the special public prosecutor said.
The defence counsel contested before judge Tejwinder Singh that Parvesh Kumar was a juvenile which was strongly opposed by the prosecution, he said, adding the judge has asked the state to file their objections.
The crime branch had filed a charge sheet on April 9 in Kathua in the case of kidnap, rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl from January 10 this year.
She was killed on January 14 and her body was recovered on January 17 triggering a massive political unrest in the state.
According to the charge sheet, the victim was held in captivity at a small village temple in Kathua district where she was kept sedated and sexually assaulted before she was bludgeoned to death. The eight-year-old had gone missing on January 10 while grazing horses in the forest.
Investigators said the accused juvenile had abducted the girl on the pretext of helping her find her horses. According to the chargesheet, the accused gave the girl sedatives to make her unconscious while holding her in captivity at the ‘Devisthan'.
The juvenile, a school dropout, turned out to be the main player in the abduction and murder, raping the child repeatedly along with Vishal and Deepak Khajuria.
On January 23, about a week after the body was discovered, the government handed over the case to the crime branch, which formed a Special Investigation Team.
"… in the course of investigation, it transpired that somewhere in the first week of January, accused Sanji Ram decided to put a plan to dislodge the Bakherwal community from the area which had been brewing in his mind for quite sometime, into operation and in pursuance to that he made accused Deepak Khajuria, a special police officer, and his nephew (juvenile) as part of the conspiracy and assigned them tasks separately and individually," the charge sheet said.
Sanji Ram surrendered on March 20 after his son was arrested from Uttar Pradesh a day earlier.
Investigations revealed that Sanji Ram gave Rs 4 lakh to the police officers investigating the case in three installments. The charge sheet explained in detail how the accused police officials destroyed crucial evidence by washing the clothes of the victim before sending them to the forensic laboratory and created false evidence at the scene.
The trial in the case began on May 31 with the seven accused being produced before the district and sessions judge after the Supreme Court transferred the case from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab for a fair trial following a plea by the victim's family. While transferring the case from Kathua to Pathankot, about 30 km away, the apex court directed day-to-day in-camera trial in the case.