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Decided to murder Kathua girl to save my son, Sanji tells Police

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New Delhi, Apr 27: Police investigating the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua say that Sanji Ram, one of the main accused, has told them during interrogation that he learnt about the rape four days after her abduction, and decided to have her killed because his son was also involved in the sexual assault.
The investigators say the girl, who was kidnapped on January 10, was first raped the same day by Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, and was killed on January 14. Her body was found on January 17 in a forest.
Along with the juvenile, Ram and son Vishal, five others have been charged in the case, which has shaken the nation and led to the government promulgating an ordinance mandating death sentence for the rape of a child aged 12 and below.
The investigators told PTI that the girl, from the Muslim Bakarwal community, was kept in a ‘devisthan’, a small temple, where Ram was the custodian. The aim of the kidnapping was to scare and drive away the nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal communities from the Hindu dominated area, they said.
Ram’s lawyer, Ankur Sharma, refused to comment on the investigators’ version of the incidents, saying it would not be appropriate for him to discuss defence strategy. “At least the defence lawyer should not be commenting on the merits of the case. It is like leaking your strategy as a defence lawyer,” he told PTI.
Sanji Ram claims he found out about the sexual assault only on January 13 when the nephew confessed to him, according to the investigators. He told them that he had performed prayers at the devisthan, and asked his nephew to take prasad home. But the nephew delayed doing so, and in anger Ram beat him up, investigators said.
However, the juvenile thought his uncle had found out that he had raped the girl, and spilled the beans, they said. They claim the juvenile also implicated his cousin, Vishal, saying they both had raped the girl inside the ‘devisthan’.
It was then that Ram decided that “time was ripe to kill the girl so as to achieve the ultimate goal” of scaring away the nomads, according to the chargesheet filed in the case.
Investigators say Ram also convinced his nephew to confess to the crime.
On the intervening night of January 13 and 14, the juvenile, Vishal and a friend, Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, took the victim out of the ‘devisthan’. They were later joined by a special police officer Deepak Khajuria who wanted to rape her once more before she was killed, they said.
She was murdered on January 14 as Ram did not want to leave any evidence that led to his son, investigators have found.
But things did not go quite as planned, they said.
The body of the child was to be transported and disposed of in the Hiranagar canal nearby. However, a vehicle could not be arranged in time. The juvenile, Vishal, Khajuria and Mannu lifted the body and took it back to the ‘devisthan’ while Ram kept watch outside, the chargesheet said.
Further investigations showed that Ram told his nephew and his son the next day that his friend had refused to bring a car so the two had to throw it in the jungle.
Preparations for the abduction had started on January 7 when sedatives and manar (local cannabis or bhang) were purchased, the chargesheet said.
The child was sedated with manar and kept in the ‘devisthan’ covered with a rug and a mattress weighing nearly 15 kg, investigators said.
A senior police officer of the crime branch investigating the case consumed the manar tablet in front of his colleagues and the medical team to understand the effect of the drug, it is learnt.
The chargesheets — a separate chargesheet was filed for the juvenile — named Ram, his nephew, his son Vishal, SPOs Khajuria and Surender Verma and friend Mannu.
While Ram has been charged with murder, kidnapping and destruction of evidence, Mannu has been charged with kidnapping. The other three have rape added to the list of charges.
The chargesheet also names head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
All of them have been charged under Section 120 B of the IPC for criminal conspiracy.
Investigators have also reconstructed the juveniles day after he disposed of the body.
On the afternoon of January 15, after dumping the body, he joined other boys playing near the canal in Hiranagar and told a friend, Amit Sharma, about the murder. Later that evening, he accompanied Vishal, who was returning to Meerut, to the station.
Ram, investigators claimed, also convinced his underage nephew to confess to the crime but leave Vishal out of it, assuring him that he would get him released early from the remand home.
Later, according to the daily diary of the police, the juvenile approached the superintendent of police and admitted his guilt.
Amit Sharma’s statement has been recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before a magistrate which is admissible in the court as primary evidence.
On January 23, the government handed over the case to the Crime Branch of the state police, which formed a Special Investigation Team and arrested the eight people.
The accused pleaded not guilty on the opening day of the trial in the principal district and sessions court on April 16. The next hearing in the case is on April 28.


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‘Bigger force’ wants to deactivate CJI’s office’: SC

Gogoi accused of sexual harassment; refutes allegations

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New Delhi, Apr 20: Describing the allegations of sexual harassment against him as “unbelievable”, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi convened an extraordinary hearing at the Supreme Court on Saturday and said a larger conspiracy was behind it and he would not stoop too low even to deny these allegations.
In the hurriedly called hearing after the allegations cropped up, the apex court left it to the “wisdom of media” to show restraint and act responsibly so that independence of judiciary is not affected.
The apex court, which held the hearing for around 30 minutes, said independence of judiciary was under “very serious threat” and “unscrupulous allegations” of sexual harassment had been levelled against the Chief Justice of India as some “bigger force” wanted to “deactivate” the office of the CJI.
The “unusual and extraordinary” hearing on a Saturday was held after stories were published on some news portals on the allegations made by an ex-employee of the apex court against the CJI.
The court, which said the judiciary “cannot be made a scapegoat”, said the media should not publish the woman’s complaint without verifying its truth.
The CJI said this issue had cropped up when a bench headed by him is scheduled to hear “many, many sensitive cases” next week and this was also the month of the general election in the country.
Besides the CJI, the bench also comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna, hinted towards a “bigger force” behind the controversy which had the potential to shake the faith of public in the judicial system.
Though the CJI was heading the bench, he left it to Justice Mishra to take a call on passing a judicial order.
Dictating the order, Justice Mishra said, “Having considered the matter, we refrain from passing any judicial order at this moment, leaving it to the wisdom of the media to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published, as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage reputation and negate independence of judiciary.”
“We would, therefore, at this juncture leave it to the media to take off such material which is undesirable,” the order said.
The CJI said “unbelievable” allegations had been levelled against him and “I do not think I should stoop too low even to deny these allegations. But that comes after 20 years of selfless service as a judge”.
“Nobody can catch me on money. People have to find something and they have found this,” the CJI said, while making it clear that he had a bank balance of Rs 6.8 lakh apart from around Rs 40 lakh in provident fund after being in service for around two decades.
“There has to be a bigger, bigger force behind this. There are two offices–one of the Prime Minister and one of the CJI. They (people behind this controversy) want to deactivate the office of the CJI,” Justice Gogoi said, adding, “This is the reward a CJI gets after 20 years of service.”
Anguished over the allegations, the CJI warned that “the judiciary of this country is under very serious threat. We will not allow this to happen”.
“I will sit in this chair and discharge my judicial functions without any fear. I will decide the cases in the seven months (of his remaining tenure as the CJI). I will do that,” he said.
Justice Gogoi, who assumed the office of the CJI on October 3, 2018, will retire on November 17.
Before being elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court on April 23, 2012, Justice Gogoi was the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court from February 12, 2011.
Prior to his appointment as a permanent judge of the Gauhati High Court on February 28, 2001, he practised mainly in that high court. As a judge, he was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on September 9, 2010.
A three-judge special bench headed by Justice Gogoi was constituted after a sworn affidavit by the woman, copies of which were sent to the residences of 22 apex court judges, became public on Saturday.
The apex court registry in a notice earlier in the day said a three-bench headed by the CJI was being set up to deal with a “matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary”.
The former employee has described two incidents of alleged molestation by Gogoi in her affidavit, both of which allegedly took place in October 2018, days after he was appointed the CJI, and her subsequent persecution.
According to reports, the woman alleged that she was removed from service after she rebuffed his advances. She claimed that her husband and brother-in-law, both of whom were head constables, were suspended for a 2012 criminal case that had been mutually resolved.
She was later made to prostrate before Justice Gogoi’s wife and rub her nose at her feet in the CJI’s residence, she alleged, adding that her disabled brother-in-law was removed from service at the Supreme Court.
The woman also alleged that she was detained at a police station along with her husband and other relatives and they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse in a case of cheating against her.
Confirming that a letter by the woman has been received by several sitting judges, Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar said all the allegations made by the woman concerned were mala fide and had no basis. “No doubt, it is a mala fide allegation,” he said.

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‘Healing touch’ only for Kashmiris: Modi

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New Delhi, Apr 20: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has criticised those who have been advocating a “soft touch” towards separatists in Jammu and Kashmir.
Responding to question from news channel Times Now on Rahul Gandhi’s vow to dilute the provisions of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) to “reduce the alienation” of the people in J&K, the Prime Minister said that militants and separatists can only be dealt with a “hitting touch”. The ‘healing touch’, the PM said should be reserved for the civilians of the state.
“We follow the principles of Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. Humanity, Democracy and Kashmiriyat – we are treading this path. We and the country are ready for extra healing touch for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh but there can only be hitting touch for militants,” the PM said.
Declaring that “we will have to make a clear demarcation that healing touch is for the citizens and hitting touch for the militants,” Modi said “They believe in the exact opposite of this. They want a healing touch for separatists and militants and a hitting touch for Central government. This is wrong”.
Saying that “this extra healing touch is for the policemen who are dying in Kashmir, the army jawans who come home for weddings in their families and being killed – they need a healing touch, the Prime Minister said “there are children who are making the country proud in sports competitions, they need a healing touch. They need an extra healing touch. I am willing to walk that mile to provide them with that but there will be no healing touch to separatists and militants. I will not let them be given that treatment and will only give them hitting touch”.
Modi also said Pulwama attack would not have happened if a strong reply was given after the attack in Mumbai in November 2008.
He also noted that the aerial strike on a training camp in Balakot was “successful” with Pakistan not allowing the media to visit the site for over 40 days.
Modi told Times Now in an interview that “no patriotic Indian could afford to sit back after the February 14, Pulwama attack, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed”.
“If we remain silent at a time like this, then the perpetrators will get into the habit of thinking that the government is not strong and they can get away. If action had been taken after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Pulwama would not have happened,” he said.
Modi said no major terror incident has happened in the US after the 9/11 attack as their government showed strength.
“Whenever such incidents happened in the past in India, even when the Pandits were driven out of the Kashmir Valley, if strong steps had been taken at that time then we would not have faced 40 years of militancy and lost thousands of soldiers. But at that time politics got in the way, vote banks got in the way,” Modi said.
Asked about people who link Balakot strikes with elections, Modi said “it is a reflection of their thinking”.
“They have never thought there is something called national policy which is much bigger than politics. This is beyond their understanding. I find it very painful to even descend into this kind of argument,” he said.
He said the “sacrifice of 40 personnel meant a new warning bell of danger.”
“This had to be answered. I had decided after the Uri attack that now the time had come to carry out action where the militants get shelter and weapons and where they get their training. That is why on the very first day (after Pulwama attack) I gave a free hand to the Army,” the Prime Minister said.
He said the Balakot strikes were carried out very carefully and it was a “successful operation”.
Answering a query on ‘strategic restraint’, Modi said it means hiding shortcomings and the world respects the powerful.
Asked about suspicions about success of air strikes, Modi said it was Pakistan which announced that aerial strikes had taken place.
“If nothing had happened, why would they announce? Secondly, after the Uri surgical strike, Pakistan showed the media that nothing had happened within 24 hours, because in a radius of 250 km, any corner can be shown. It was easy. Why did Pakistan not let media visit the Balakot airstrike site for 43 days? Even today, ordinary citizens are not permitted to go there. Why is that?”
He said statements from Pakistan say they want to have talks but referred to its contradictory claims after the air strikes. “Why should we trust Pakistan?” he asked.

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Highway restrictions off between Srinagar-Baramulla

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Srinagar, Apr 20: The Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday partially relaxed the two-day-a-week restrictions on the movement of civilian traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway which was put in place to facilitate movement of security forces’ convoys.

Earlier this month, the government had imposed the restrictions on the national highway (NH-44) connecting Jammu to Srinagar, days after the Pulwama attack in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

The restriction barred civilian traffic from plying on the road on Wednesdays and Sundays.

 

Now, there would be no restrictions from Srinagar to Baramulla on Wednesdays, an official spokesperson said Saturday.

However, the restrictions would continue between Srinagar and Udhampur, in the Jammu region, on NH-44 as earlier, he said.

“These would be reviewed periodically and relaxation would be made as the need for restriction reduces,” he said.

A complete review of restrictions on the highway, the spokesperson added, would be done after the last phase of elections on May 06, to examine the need for continuing with them.

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