By Mubashir Bukhari
Jammu/Srinagar, Apr 09: A group of lawyers on Monday prevented Crime Branch (CB) of Jammu and Kashmir Police from filing charge sheet into rape-and-murder of eight year old girl Asifa Bano at Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Kathua.
According to the reports, when the CB team reached CJM court along with the accused persons, the lawyers of Kathua Bar Association started sloganeering and prevented the team to produce the report.
“Go Back, Go Back, Crime Branch Go Back,” the lawyers shouted slogans asking police not to produce the charge sheet in the case.
When the situation turned ugly, police had to rush reinforcement to facilitate the entry of Crime Branch officials into the court.
Later, after the situation was brought under control, the charge-sheet was produced before the CJM, Kathua against the seven accused persons involved in the crime.
Inspector General of Police crime branch, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba confirmed the charge sheet was produced against the seven accused,” while that of “eighth one is under process”.
The seven accused against whom charge sheet has been produced under sections 302, 376, 201, 120-B RPC are Sanji Ram, 60, the mastermind behind the crime, special police officers (SPO) Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, Head Constable Tilak Raj and civilian Parvesh Kumar, Sub-inspector, Anand Dutta and son of Sanji, Vishal.
The Jammu High Court Bar Association (JHBA) is on strike since Thursday in support of various demands including handing over the Kathua rape-cum-murder case to CBI, a demand which was also highlighted by women relatives of the accused who are on an indefinite hunger strike since March 31.
Defending its demand for handing over the Kathua rape-and-murder case of a minor girl to the CBI, JHBA president B S Slathia said it only favoured “fair investigation” of the case as the government sidelined the Jammu crime branch and gave responsibility of the investigation to a special team from Kashmir.
“A criminal is a criminal and not linked to any religion. We demand severe punishment to those who have done wrong but we will not hesitate to raise our voice if the investigation is done in a wrong way,” he said, adding the government should have come forward on its own and handed over the case to CBI.
Bar Association Kathua, whose members were protesting on Monday, in a press statement said that their agitation shall continue.
“The Bar has unanimously decided to keep the work under suspension till April 12. An appeal is made to the civil society, private schools association, Vyapar Mandal Kathua, Transporters’ Union etc to observe complete Kathua bandh on April 11. There shall be complete bandh on April 11 in the whole of Jammu province in support of the demands out forth by Jammu High Court Bar Association,” read the statement.
The move by the Jammu lawyers has miffed the valley lawyers who demand strict action against them.
“Under section 186 of RPC, if anybody interferes with the performance of a public servant performing his duty, action against the concerned person can be taken by the concerned officer. They should have arrested them and filed an FIR,” senior advocate, Zaffar Qureshi said.
“The investigating officer according to this provision should have file a case against them and arrested the protesting lawyers. If not arrest, they should produce a challan against these people,” he said.
He questioned the demands of the Jammu High Court Bar Association which is asking for CBI probe in the case.
“Why are they asking for CBI when state government is already probing it,” Qureshi said.
“They didn’t file any Public Interest Litigation, on what basis are they protesting? It is a criminal matter, where a Muslim girl has been raped in a temple and they are giving it another angle,” Qureshi added.
Official sources said that the crime branch, probing the rape-and-murder, had found hair strands from Devistan temple in Hiranagar after one of the accused revealed during interrogation that Asifa was held captive inside the temple.
The crime site was searched and the hair strands were found and sent to Forensic Laboratory (FSL) New Delhi. The report confirmed that they were that of Asifa.
The report was received by the crime branch along with the postmortem report which has also confirmed the seductive medicine (Clonazepam) used to unconscious the girl by the accused.
The investigating agency has so far arrested eight accused persons including the mastermind Sanji Ram and his son Vishal Kumar, a police head constable, two SPOs and a sub-inspector of police in connection with the crime.
Sanji Ram, a retired revenue officer, surrendered before the crime branch on March 20 and the development came a day after his son Vishal Kumar was arrested from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, in connection with the case (FIR No: 10/2018 U/S 363, 320, 376, 302 RPC). Both father and son were evading arrest in connection with the gruesome rape and murder which send shock waves across the state.
The investigations had revealed that it was not a random crime but part of a wider conspiracy to dislodge the Bakarwal community from the Rassana village in Kathua. Sanji Ram has been bent upon to dislodge the nomad community from Rassana village, the probe said.
“The mastermind behind the entire game was bent upon dislodging the Bakarwal community and in order to execute the nefarious design, he hatched conspiracy (with others),” the SIT submitted in a status report before the high court recently.
The minor girl had been missing since January 10 when she failed to return home from watering horses in her native Rassana forests, and her body was found on January 17.
The next day, after protests rocked the area, the Kathua police had said that a SIT, under SDPO border, had been set up to investigate the case.
On January 20, the government transferred the Station House Officer of the Hiranagar police station, ordering a magisterial probe, and three days later, on January 23, handed the case over to the Crime Branch.