The Supreme Court on Friday stayed till May 7 the trial in the Kathua gang rape and murder case, after being seized with petitions seeking shifting of the trial to Chandigarh and handing over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra said it will deal with the prayer of the victim’s father for shifting the trial to Chandigarh and the plea of the accused seeking handing over the probe to CBI.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing on May 7.
The child from a minority nomadic community had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
During the hearing, the apex court witnessed heated exchanges between senior advocate Indira Jaising, who appeared for the victim’s family, and advocate Harvinder Chaudhary, who was representing the accused.
Jaising said the case be transferred to Chandigarh due to proximity to Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the incidents of obstruction of police personnel by lawyers of the local court.
She said that attempts were made to intimidate the presiding judge of the court and the crime branch officials were heckled by the lawyers, as is evident in the affidavit of Jammu and Kashmir government.
Chaudhary said his clients do not have faith in police investigation and the probe should go to CBI. She alleged that the police was hand-in-glove with vested interests to falsely implicate the accused while the real culprits were someone else.
Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, along with standing counsel Shoeb Alam, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, opposed the prayer for a CBI probe and said the Special Investigation Team of the crime branch was investigating the case.
Ganai said the trial could be shifted from Kathua and Jammu to some other district in the state as there were 221 witnesses and most of the statements recorded so far were in Urdu.
Alam said that Jammu and Kashmir has its own penal law and if the trial is shifted to Chandigarh, then it may create several problems.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, said the government was ready to provide any assistance if required but the call has to be taken by the Jammu and Kashmir government.
The apex court had on Thursday given a stern warning and said it would transfer the Kathua gang rape and murder case from the local court in the “slightest possibility” of lack of fair trial, saying the “real concern” was to hold proper prosecution.
The eight-year-old’s father had moved the apex court earlier, apprehending threat to the family, a friend and their lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat. A separate plea was also filed by two accused seeking that the trial in the case be held in Jammu and the probe handed over to the CBI.
The state police’s Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed the main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district last week. The charge sheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.