The district and sessions court in Pathankot on Monday convicted six out of seven accused in the infamos Kathua gang rape case in which an eight-year-old girl was raped and murdered in Rasana village of Hiranagar tehsil in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir.
The verdict comes almost 17 months after the incident. The court had completed the in-camera trial of the rape case that had shook the nation.
The court sentenced Sanjhi Ram, said to be the mastermind of the heinous crime, along with two others Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar to life imprisonment. The quantum of life imprisonment is 25 years. Besides, all the three will also have to pay a fine of Rs.50,000 each.
The court sentenced Jammu and Kashmir police sub inspector Anand Ditta, constables Surinder Kumar and Tilak Raj to five years jail and a fine of Rs 50,000 each for destroying evidence.
Sanjhi Ram’s son Vishal Jalgotra was acquitted on benefit of doubt as it was reported that he was in Meerut to appear in examination at the time of incident.
The trial was shifted outside the state after Jammu and Kashmir crime branch arrested the accused persons. The in-camera trial was carried out on a day to day basis in which 114 witnesses were examined by the prosecution and defence lawyers.
The victim’s lawyer Farooqi Khan, however, said he was extremely disappointed with the verdict as they were expecting death sentence for the convicts who heaped untold torture on the hapless minor girl.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the judgment on micro-blogging site Twitter. “We stopped playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8 year old child was drugged, raped & then bludgeoned to death. Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited & culprits get exemplary punishment,’ she said.
Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi tweeted: “I welcome the #KathuaCase verdict but over 1 lakh daughters still await justice in our courts. It is time to stop child rape through strong legal deterrent and strong action.”
According to the crime branch charge sheet, the minor victim was kidnapped on January 10, 2018. She was kept in captivity for four days in a local temple where she was repeatedly drugged and gang raped. Finally, she was bludgeoned to death. Her body was found on January 17.
As there were allegations about the local police hushing up the matter, the BDP-BJP government headed by Mehbooba Mufti shifted the case to the crime branch. When the crime branch sleuths arrested Sanjhi Ram, the village headman, and others, the local Hindu Ekta Manch took out a protest march against their arrest.
Two ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government — Choudhury Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga of the BJP — participated in the protest march. The rape case also became a matter of conflict between the alliance partners PDP and BJP.