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Trials in Kathua rape-murder case to begin today

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Jammu:The trials in the gruesome Kathua rape and murder case begin on Monday against eight accused who allegedly held an 8-year-old girl in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district for a week in January this year during which she was kept sedated and sexually assaulted before being bludgeoned to death.
The accused include a juvenile.
The chief judicial magistrate of Kathua will be committing one of the charge sheets, in which seven people have been named, to the sessions court for trial as mandated under the law. The chief judicial magistrate will, however, hold the trial for the juvenile as it is the designated court under the juvenile act, according to officials.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has appointed two special public prosecutors, both Sikhs, for the trial in the sensitive case, a move being seen as made to ensure “neutrality” in view of Hindu-Muslim polarisation over the case.
The trial is expected to go smoothly after the Jammu Bar Association as well as the Kathua Bar received a rap on the kuckles by the Supreme Court on April 13 as the apex court took a strong note of some lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the case.
The Supreme Court initiated a case on its own record saying such impediment “affects the dispensation of justice and would amount to obstruction of access to justice”.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud was also critical of the Jammu High Court Bar Association, which had passed a resolution not to attend the courts saying “it is the duty of the bar association as a collective body and they cannot obstruct the process of law”.
According to the charge sheets filed by the crime branch, the abduction, rape and killing of the Bakerwal girl was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area.
It lists the caretaker of ‘Devisthan’, a small temple, in a village in Kathua, about 90 km from here, as the main conspirator behind the crime.
Sanji Ram was allegedly joined by special police officers Deepak 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 Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
All eight are under arrest.
The crime branch will also be handing over the notices issued to the Jammu Bar Council as well as Kathua Bar Council for appearing before the Supreme Court on April 19.
The Bar Association of Kathua has already retracted from its earlier statement of providing legal assistance free of cost to the accused and said “after going through the charge sheet presented by the crime branch (against the accused in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate on April 9) it is revealed that the allegations against the accused persons are very grave and as such this case is to be dealt with in a professional way.
“As such, we have withdrawn our offer to contest the case free of cost. Accused are free to engage any individual advocate and exercise their respective rights of defence in the court. It is for any individual advocate to accept the brief and the bar association will not come in the way of defence nor the bar association will hamper the prosecution,” President of BAK Kirty Bhushan Mahajan had said in a seven-page statement yesterday.
Members of the same association had blocked the way of crime branch personnel from submitting the charge sheet before the chief judicial magistrate for six hours forcing the police to present it at the house of the magistrate.
Police have already registered a case against lawyers for obstructing public servants from performing their duty.
The Jammu Bar association, which was left red-faced after the Supreme Court’s observation, attempted to put a brave face saying they had full faith in the apex court and said their main demand was for shifting of illegally settled Rohingyas.
It denounced the attempts made by certain quarters for making wrongful attempts to project the association as “pro-rapist” or “anti-national”.
The association today fielded a senior woman advocate Surinder Kour who said “we are now satisfied that the case has reached the Supreme Court and we are satisfied that justice will be delivered to the minor girl”.
JHCBA is on strike since April 4 and sponsored a general strike on April 11 in Jammu to press for its demands, including for according district status to Nowshera sub-division in Rajouri district.
“We included the demand for CBI probe into the Kathua rape and murder at the request of civil society,” Kour said and accused the state government of forcing them into agitation by “giving no response to our concerns despite repeated memorandums and statements.”


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Bijbehara: 40 polling booths with zero votes

Mubashir Bukhari

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Bijbehara, Apr 23: Home turf of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, the Bijbehara assembly segment under the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, reported highest concentration of polling stations where zero votes were cast.

Among the 65 booths in Anantnag where zero votes were cast, 40 were located in Bijbehara, one of the six assembly constituencies where voting took place in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections Tuesday.

People cast their votes in 714 polling stations in Anantnag. Bijbehara, the home constituency of PDP president Mufti, had 120 polling booths set up for a population of 93,289 people.

 

A total of 1,893 electorate or 2 per cent exercised their franchise when the polling ended at 4 pm. The voting time for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat was reduced in view of security considerations. The Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, where voting took place in the first phase, saw 17 polling stations with zero while the Srinagar Parliamentary seat, which went to polls in the second phase, recorded zero votes in 90 booths.

Polling in Anantnag, which has 16 assembly seats, has been divided into three phases. The first phase was completed on Tuesday while remaining two will be held on April 29 and May 6. The decision for staggered polling was taken keeping in view the security situation in South Kashmir which has seen many encounters between security forces and militants.

On February 14, over 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a miliant attack in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

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Clubbing of booths kept voters away

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Apr 23:  The clubbing of the polling booths in Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency Tuesday discouraged many voters, who preferred to stay at home rather than walking long distances to cast their votes.  

District Anantnag, which went for polls first in the three-phased schedule Tuesday, recorded 13.63 voter turnouts in six segments including Anantnag, Dooru, Kokernag, Shangus, Bijbehara and Pahalgam.

Scores of the voters said that many gave up their plans to cast vote after authorities announced clubbing of the polling booths in the constituency.

 

In Lisser Chawalgam village of Kokernag segment, at least three polling stations catering to different locations were accommodated in a local higher secondary school.

 It included polling station of Shalnaad village as well, which is at least three kilometers away from the station.  

Those who casted their votes claimed that they had to enter secretly into the booth as the area had witnessed stone pelting.

“More people could have come to vote if the locations of the polling booths were not changed at the last moment. Many women didn’t cast their votes as they too had to travel kilometres to reach to the polling station,” said a voter, who had come from Shalnaad to cast his vote at higher secondary school Lisser.

Similarly polling booths in rural areas of Anantnag, Pahalgam too were clubbed, which reportedly affected the voting percentage of these areas.

“South Kashmir usually witnesses low voting percentage. The change in the location of polling booths has further the participation,” said a polling officer.

National Conference Candidate for Anantnag, Retired Justice Hasnain Masoodi, told The Kashmir Monitor that the clubbing of the polling booth was the main reason behind the low voting percentage in many areas.

“The polling booths of Jeshnaad and Makawora have been accommodated in government buildings, which are five to eight kilometers away from these villages. It has made the entire voting exercise inconvenient for the people,” he said.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) earlier also said that clubbing of the polling stations for Parliament elections in Jammu and Kashmir will affect the participation of people in the elections.

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Security bandobast not up to the mark: Mir

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Srinagar, Apr 23: The Congress Candidate from Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency Ghulam Ahmad Mir Tuesday conveyed his gratitude to voters for participating in polling in Anantnag and hoped that the people of other districts will follow suit.

Mir, in a statement, also expressed serious concern over the lack of security arrangements in Anantnag, saying that “the fool-proof security as was assured by the ECI were not visible on the ground, describing it as a lack of concern on the part of ECI.”

“I express my gratitude to voters for participating in polling in Anantnag,” he said saying that he was pleased to observe that the day has passed incident free.

 

Taking a jibe at ECI for lack of security arrangements in the district during polling, Mir said the required security arrangements were not seen on the ground in the Anantnag.

“The assurances of ECI with regard to fool-proof security arrangements have fallen flat, which was a matter of serious concern and should not be repeated in coming phases in South Kashmir,” he said.

Mir urged upon the ECI to look into the security aspect of south Kashmir and ensure that fool-proof security arrangements are put in place to ensure free, fair and incident-free elections.

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