Pathankot, Jun 10: A Special Court in Pathankot Monday awarded life imprisonment to three out of the six convicted for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu’s Kathua district last year.
After nearly a year-long trial, the court held the six guilty in the case that shook the conscience of people across India.
The court acquitted another accused Vishal Jangotra, son of mastermind Sanji Ram, giving him the ”benefit of doubt”, according to Mubeen Farooqi, who represented the victim’s family.
The court pronounced a quantum of life imprisonment for the three main accused – Parvesh Kumar, Deepak Khajuria and Sanji Ram. A five-year jail term was announced for the three cops, Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma, for destroying evidence.
The eighth accused, a juvenile, faces a separate trial. His trial is yet to begin as a petition to determine his age is awaiting judgment in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the devsthanam (temple) where the crime took place, and the five others have been convicted under Ranbir Penal Code sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gangrape, destruction of evidence, drugging the victim and common intention, prosecution lawyer Santokh Singh said.
The prosecution had sought capital punishment for them.
The three main accused have been sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs one lakh each after being convicted for criminal conspiracy and murder, the prosecution lawyer said.
Life imprisonment will mean they will be in jail till the end of their natural life, he said.
They have also been handed over different jail terms for various offences under the RPC which will run concurrently with life term, he said.
Each of their three accomplices — Anand Dutta, Tilak Raj and Surender Verma — have been convicted for destruction of evidence to cover up and handed down five years in jail and Rs 50,000 fine each, he said.
If they do not deposit the fine, they will have to serve additional six months in jail, he said.
The court pronounced the much-awaited verdict away from the gaze of media which gathered outside the premises.
The prosecution team, comprising lawyers J K Chopra, S S Basra, Harminder Singh and Bhupinder Singh, said it demanded capital punishment for the main accused and may go in for appeal against the sole acquittal.
“We have sought capital punishment against all three accused convicted of murder and gang rape. It was hard work of all of us and a perfect blend of investigation and legal brains. We have achieved 99 per cent result,” the statement of the prosecution team said.
The crime branch of J&K Police had filed the chargesheet against eight persons, including a juvenile.
According to the 15-page chargesheet filed in April last year, the girl was kidnapped on January 10 that year and was raped in captivity in a small village temple, exclusively manned by Sanji Ram, after having been kept sedated for four days. She was later bludgeoned to death.
The day-to-day trial commenced in the first week of June last year at the district and sessions court in Pathankot in the neighbouring state of Punjab, about 100 km from Jammu and 30 km from Kathua, after the Supreme Court ordered on May 7, 2018 that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir.
The apex court order came after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a chargesheet in the sensational case.
The Crime Branch held Ram, his juvenile nephew and his son Vishal, and two SPOs Khajuria and Verma. Raj and Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, were also arrested.
The charges of rape and murder were framed by the district and sessions judge against seven of the eight accused.
The court framed charges under relevant sections of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), including Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang-rape), according to the prosecution.
The court also framed charges of destruction of evidence and causing hurt by poisoning under Section 328 of the RPC.
All the accused, barring the juvenile, were shifted to the Gurdaspur jail in Punjab following an intervention by the Supreme Court which also restricted appearance of the defence lawyers and limited it to one or maximum of two per accused.
The chargesheet said the girl had gone missing while grazing horses.
Investigators said the accused juvenile had abducted the girl on the pretext of helping her find her horses.
The abduction, rape and killing of the child was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the chargesheet said.
The case had constrained relations between the then ruling coalition partners, the PDP and BJP, after two ministers of the BJP, Chowdhury Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, participated in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused arrested by the state crime branch.
The rape and killing of the girl had sparked outrage across the state, forcing the government to hand over the case to the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police.
Biz leaders of JK, PaK meet in Tashkent
Appeal India, Pak to resume cross LoC trade
Srinagar, Jun 24: For the first time since the Cross LoC trade was suspended, the business leaders of Jammu and Kashmir and Muzaffarabad met in Tashkent and decided to approach the respective governments for early resumption of the trade.
The decision was taken in a three-day conference of the business leaders of both sides of LoC, which is currently underway in the Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent. Six business leaders representing Chambers of Commerce of Kashmir and Jammu are participating in the conference, which started on Sunday.
Trade leaders from Mirpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and Traders Union Rawalakot are representing the business community of Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) in the conference.
The three-day meet has been organized by Muzaffarabad-based Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR), which works to “promote peace and development at all levels through dialogue, reconciliation and reforms.”
On the second day of the conference on Monday, the traders resolved to convey to their respective governments the need for early resumption of cross LoC trade.
President Kashmir Chamber (KCC&I), Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, while speaking to The Kashmir Monitor over the phone from Tashkent, said the traders held threadbare deliberations on the resumption and strengthening of the Cross LoC trade.
“It was resolved that all the Chambers will take up the matter related to the reopening of Cross LoC trade with the respective governments,” he said.
On April 18, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suspended the Cross-LoC trade in J&K, saying that it was being used for “funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency” into the state.
More than 280 traders were hit by the decision. Figures reveal that goods worth Rs 6,900 crore were traded on both sides since the inception of the trade in 2008.
On the alleged transporting of incriminating material through the route, Ahmad said the traders pledged to push their respective governments for framing Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for ensuring greater transparency in the trade.
“We are for the transparency of the trade. Both the countries should frame SOPs wherein necessary measures should be taken to check such activities. It was made amply clear that the traders should concentrate on the trade while as the government must ensure transparency,” he said.
The participants also realised that the suspension of the Cross trade was causing huge losses to the business community on both the sides.
“Traders on both the sides of LoC are incurring huge losses. The Cross LoC trade was the biggest Confidence Building Measure between the two countries. It should be resumed immediately,” said the president, KCC&I.
He said the conference was aimed at exploring all options to ensure hassle-free trade across the border.
Before suspension, the Cross LoC trade was being carried out for four days a week on both routes—Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote.
Started in October 2008, Cross-LoC trade was considered the mother of all confidence building measures between India and Pakistan. However, the trade could not grow beyond the barter system.
Mehbooba welcomes Hurriyat’s readiness for dialogue
Srinagar, Jun 24: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti Monday welcomed the Hurriyat Conference willingness to hold talks with the Centre saying it was ‘better late than never’.
“Dair aye durust aye [better late than never]. The underlying purpose of the PDP-BJP alliance was to facilitate dialogue between the GoI & all stakeholders. Tried my best to make it happen in my tenure as Chief Minister but relieved that Hurriyat has finally softened their stand,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba said in a tweet.
Mehbooba Mufti was referring to Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s call for a tripartite talk between the Kashmiri leadership, New Delhi and Islamabad for resolution of all issues, including Kashmir.
Besides touching on the need for a dialogue during his Friday sermons at Jamia Masjid, the Mirwaiz in his Eid-ul Fitr sermon earlier this month had sought confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan that could facilitate the revival of talks between the two countries.
Governor Satya Pal Malik, while addressing a function in Srinagar on Saturday, had said the Hurriyat had softened its stand and were ready for talks after he took charge of the state in August last year.
“The Hurriyat Conference was not willing to talk. Ram Vilas Paswan was standing at their door (in 2016) but they were not ready to talk. Today, they are ready for talks and want to hold dialogue. There is change in everyone,” Satya Pal Malik said.
The governor’s statement has given rise to speculations that the Centre might be opening dialogue channels with the separatists in Kashmir in near future.
Talks must be held with them: Farooq
Srinagar, Jun 24: Two days after Governor Satya Pal Malik said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Central government, National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah on Monday asserted that talks must be held.
“The Governor says Hurriyat has agreed to talks. Then, talks should be held with them,” Abdullah told the media persons.
Contending that situation in J&K “is changing”, Governor Malik had on June 22 said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Centre.
“The ones who turned back Ram Vilas Paswan from their door, they are now ready for talks. The stone pelting after ‘namaz’ is almost over. We do not like it when a youngster dies,” Malik had said at a function.
“But when a bullet is fired, bullets will be fired in retaliation. That is the reality and this change in stance by them is a welcome sign,” Malik had further added.
He had also acknowledged Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for his statement in which he had expressed concerns over the growing drug crisis in the state.
Within ‘ambit of Constitution’: BJP
Srinagar, Jan 24: BJP’s JK Affairs in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna has said that the Government of India was ready for talks with the Hurriyat ‘within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.’
Khanna also said that this was being done to win the trust of every individual in the state.
“We are open for talks. Hurriyat leaders are own people, they are the residents of J&K so they are most welcome to talk to us including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi but within the ambit of Indian constitution,” Khanna said.
Earlier, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti said that she is relived that Hurriyat has softened their stand regarding talks with the Government of India.
Recently, Governor Satya Pal Malik’s said that Hurriyat is ready for talks.
In response, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that if Government of India initiates ‘meaningful dialogue’, there will be a ‘positive response’.
J&K Reservation Bill introduced in LS
New Delhi, Jun 24: People living along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir will get benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in professional courses on par with those living along the Actual Line of Control (ALoC), according to a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 will replace an ordinance issued by the previous government.
The Bill was introduced by Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy on behalf of Home Minister Amit Shah who was present in the House.
Some members from the Opposition wanted to oppose introduction of the bill but speaker Om Birla rejected their demand, saying they had not followed the procedure for doing so.
The bill seeks to provide relief to people living in areas adjoining the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. They can now avail benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in different professional courses.
The bill once passed by Parliament will amend the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 to bring persons residing in areas adjoining the IB within the ambit of reservation, on par with those living in areas adjoining the ALoC.
The rules provided for reservation in direct recruitment, promotions and admission in different professional courses to various categories, including residents of areas adjoining ALoC.
Those living in areas adjoining the IB in Jammu and Kashmir were not included in the ambit of the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 and Rules, 2005 and were deprived of benefits.
Due to continuous cross-border tensions, people living along the IB suffer from socio-economic and educational backwardness. Shelling from across the border often compels residents to move to safer places, which adversely impacts their education as schools and colleges remain closed for long periods.
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