Kathua trial begins in Pathankot amid extraordinary security

Kathua trial begins in Pathankot amid extraordinary security
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Pathankot: The trial in the case of rape-and-murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua district began here on Thursday with seven of the eight accused being produced before the district and sessions judge.
After hearing arguments and counter arguments, the court asked the prosecution to submit translated copies of the charge sheet (from Urdu to English), statements and case diaries from Urdu to English, to everybody, including the defence lawyers, by June 4.
[epq-quote align=”align-right”]Battery of 31 lawyers to defend the accused, against 3-member prosecution team[/epq-quote]A thick security blanket was thrown over the four-storey court complex as a battery of 31 lawyers representing the defence and the three-member prosecution team, led by SS Basra from Gurdaspur, faced off against each other.
Also presenting their arguments was a four-member team representing the family of the murdered girl.
Seven of the eight accused in the case were brought in a police bus to the court complex, on the old Pathankot-Delhi highway, at around 10.40am. They were presented before District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh about 50 minutes later.
The eighth accused in the case is purportedly a juvenile. A decision on his real age is to be taken next week.
According to Pathankot Bar Association president Reshpaul Thakur, such a high-profile case was being heard in the Pathankot court for the first time.
The trial in the case is being held according to provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code, which is applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.
The main complainant is the uncle of the child. He is also her biological father, as he had given her to his brother for adoption.
The case was transferred by the Supreme Court from Kathua to Pathankot for a fair trial, following a plea by the victim’s family.
The Supreme Court had asked the district and sessions judge in Pathankot to personally undertake the trial proceedings and not assign it to other session judges, stating that it would monitor the progress of trial in the case and no other courts should entertain any other plea related to the matter.
While transferring the case from Kathua to Pathankot, about 30 km away, the apex court directed day-to-day in-camera trial in the case.
A petition on the juvenile’s case is pending before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. The Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir police has contested his “juvenile” age and submitted medical reports to back its claim.
The crime branch has said the evidence on the juvenile and the others is the same and his trial should also be held in Pathankot.
A large number of policemen, including women personnel, were deployed within and outside the court complex. The main entrance of the complex was blocked for vehicles, including those belonging to the staffers, who were asked to park their vehicles in an adjacent complex.
CCTV vans were also deployed in the court premises to keep an eye on trouble makers.
Policemen were seen in riot gear, some armed with guns and most of them carrying batons and shields.
Special security squads armed with mine detectors and sniffer dogs were doing the rounds to sanitise the complex, where the police set up barricades outside the main door.
“All necessary arrangements are in place to ensure smooth trial in the case,” a senior police officer supervising the security arrangements in and outside the court told PTI.