In Rasana rape-and-murder case…|| ‘Facts Are Many. Truth Is One’

TNN Bureau. Updated: 6/11/2019 11:36:44 AM Front Page

Court gives Life term to 3, 5-yr-jail to 3 others, 1 acquitted

JAMMU: Pathankot District and Sessions Court on Monday sentenced three men including the mastermind to life imprisonment till last breath for the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Rasana village in Kathua shortly after convicting them along with three others for the ghastly crime that shook the nation 17 months ago.

Three more—all policemen were sentenced to five years in jail for destruction of evidence whereas one accused was acquitted.

Sanji Ram, the mastermind and caretaker of the 'devasthanam' (temple) where the crime took place in January 2018, Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Officer, and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian--the three main accused--were spared death penalty, a punishment sought by the prosecution during the year-long in-camera trial in the court of judge Tejwinder Singh.

“The facts in the case are many but truth is one that under a criminal conspiracy, an innocent eight-year old minor girl has been kidnapped, wrongfully confined, drugged, raped and ultimately murdered.
"The perpetrators of this crime have acted in such a manner as if there is a 'law of jungle' prevalent in the society," the judge said.

The judge after hearing arguments from both sides for 367 days summed up the enormity of the crime with a touching couplet by Mirza Ghalib which says that hunters had placed the net near a nest and the young one was caught before it could take its first flight.

Singh started his order with the couplet from Ghalib's ghazal -- "Pinha tha daam-e-sakht qareeb ashiyaan ke, udhne hi nahi paye the ki girftar hum hue".

Also cited by the Supreme Court in a 2011 case of murder of a sex worker in West Bengal, the couplet poignantly summed up the Kathua case which shook the conscience of the nation.

Singh said the couplet applies squarely to the facts of the present case.

The three who were given life term were convicted under Ranbir Penal Code(RPC) sections relating to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gang rape, destruction of evidence, drugging the victim and common intention, prosecution lawyer Santokh Singh told reporters outside the court.

They were also awarded different jail terms for various offences under the RPC which will run concurrently with the life term besides a fine of Rs one lakh each, Singh said. If they do not deposit the fine, they will have to serve additional six months in jail, he added.

Singh said a life term for the three convicts means they will be in jail till the end of their natural life.
The other three accused--Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma -- were convicted for destruction of evidence to cover up the crime and handed down five years in jail and Rs 50,000 fine each, Singh said.
Some defence lawyers said that they would challenge the conviction of the six accused.
The court acquitted the seventh accused Vishal Jangotra, son of Sanji Ram, giving him the 'benefit of doubt', according to Mubeen Farooqi, who represented the victim's family in the court.
It pronounced the much-awaited verdict away from the gaze of media which gathered in full strength outside the court premises. All the 7 accused were present in the courtroom.
According to eyewitness accounts from inside the courtroom, where the media was barred, Ram and Khajuria reacted with shock when the operative part of the verdict was read out by the judge. Some family members of the two men collapsed in the court complex on hearing the news of them being sent to jail for life.
A 15-page charge sheet filed in April last year said the eight-year-old girl was kidnapped on January 10 that year and was raped in captivity in a small village temple, exclusively manned by Ram, after keeping her sedated for four days. She was later bludgeoned to death, it said.
The crime branch of J&K Police had filed the charge sheet against eight persons, including a juvenile.
The trial against the juvenile is yet to begin as his petition on determining his age is to be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
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.
National Commission for Women(NCW) Chairperson Rekha Sharma welcomed the conviction but said she was expecting capital punishment for all the six convicts. She said the state government should appeal in higher court.
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 J and K.
The apex court order came after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a charge sheet 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 later 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 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 charge sheet 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 charge sheet said.
The horrific crime also led to tensions in the then PDP-BJP coalition government headed by Mehbooba Mufti. Two BJP ministers--Chandra Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh-- had to quit for their open support to the accused.
Former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti hailed the court order and hit out at state BJP leaders.
"Amen to that. The guilty deserve the most severe punishment possible under law. And to those politicians who defended the accused, vilified the victim & threatened the legal system no words of condemnation are enough," Abdullah tweeted.
"Welcome the judgement. High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8 year old child was drugged, raped repeatedly & then bludgeoned to death. Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited & culprits get exemplary punishment," Mehbooba tweeted.
Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal lauded the police for securing the conviction of the accused persons.
"Congratulations to @JmuKmrPolice for getting Raisina Kathua rapists convicted. Politicians tried their best to sabotage the movement for justice to A (the victim). But the Honble Court and the law enforcement agencies stood their ground. Pray we never have to see such horror again," he tweeted.
Union minister V K Singh hailed the court verdict and said it gave hope that such brutalities would not go punished.
He also stressed on the need to educate boys on how to treat and respect women.
"Guilty from #Kathua rape-murder case are convicted-it gives me hope that such brutalities will not go unpunished. But it also makes me think of our collective consciousness as a society-why should Kathua or Aligarh happen? Need to educate our boys on how to treat & respect women," the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways said in a tweet.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also welcomed the court verdict, saying there should be no mercy for the accused as they committed a crime against humanity.
"Welcome court verdict in Kathua gangrape and murder of a minor girl. Those monsters who commit heinous crimes like Kathua and Aligarh deserve exemplary punishment and there should be no mercy for such criminals against humanity," the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief said in a tweet.

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