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Kathua rape and murder case: Accused plead not guilty, ask for narco test

PTI4_16_2018_000037B

Kathua, Apr 16: The eight people accused of raping and killing an eight-year-old in January last in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, on Monday pleaded not guilty and asked the judge for a narco-analysis test.

As the trial in the case, which has become the focal point of outrage across the country, began in Kathua, seven of the accused were produced before District and Sessions Judge Sanjay Gupta, who asked the State Crime Branch to give them copies of the charge sheet and fixed April 28 as the next date of hearing.

The eighth accused is a juvenile, who has moved a bail application before the chief judicial magistrate. The matter was posted for April 26.

The child from a minority nomadic community was allegedly held in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district for a week in sedation and sexually assaulted before being bludgeoned to death.

According to the charge sheet filed by the Crime Branch, the abduction, rape and killing of the girl was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the nomadic community from the area. A separate charge sheet was filed for the juvenile.

Counsel for the accused demanded a copy of the charge sheet filed by the Crime Branch on April 9 before the chief judicial magistrate.

Immediately after the brief hearing in the sessions court, the accused were shifted back to the jail under heavy security.

Special police officer Deepak Khajuria, who is alleged to have repeatedly raped the child, said from the police van that he was also demanding a narco test, also known as the “truth test”, and a CBI probe.

As the trial began inside the court, main accused Sanji Ram’s daughter Madhu Sharma protested outside, demanding a CBI probe.

There was heavy police presence at the Kathua court complex following the tension on April 9 when members of the local bar association did not allow the Crime Branch to submit the charge sheet in the case.

Sanji Ram, caretaker of the ‘devisthan’ in the village in Kathua, about 90 km from Jammu, is listed as the main conspirator behind the crime.

He was allegedly joined by special police officers Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, and his son Vishal Jangotra alias “Shamma”.

The charge sheet also names investigating officers head constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took ₹4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.

The issue of providing the accused copies of the “challan”, or the charge sheet, was raised before the judge by lawyer Ankush Sharma, who is pleading the case for Sanji Ram, his son and others

He said the charge sheet was presented in court on April 9 but copies had not yet been provided.

Ram told the judge that they wanted narco tests and were ready for them.

The judge asked the accused whether they were given copies of the charge sheet, which runs into 400 pages, added A.K. Sawahney, who is representing head constable Tilak Raj.

He said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had been talking about a fast-track trial but copies of the charge sheet had still not been provided to them.

In a narco analysis test, the subject is injected with sodium pentothal or sodium amytal. The dose is dependent on the person’s sex, age, health and physical condition. It does not have any legal sanctity as evidence until a court gives permission to conduct these tests. The test only helps as corroborative and not as primary evidence, say legal experts.