Disclosing name of Kathua rape and murder witnesses in advance a security concern: Police to court

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Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch today told the district and sessions judge at Pathankot in Punjab, where trial is being held in a case of rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl, that the names of witnesses should not be disclosed in advance as it was a security concern.

The crime branch was asked to submit its reply after the lawyers of the accused had filed a plea before the court, saying that they should be informed in advance about the witnesses by the prosecution.

“We submitted the application on behalf of the crime branch in which we have highlighted why the names of witnesses cannot be disclosed in advance. This includes intimidation of witnesses, their security.”

“We have highlighted how the defence lawyers were misleading about the trial as well. We plan to move another application tomorrow to inform the court how the defence lawyers were misleading the public by giving out wrong information,” Special Public Prosecutor J K Chopra told PTI.

He said the trial court would soon be taking a decision on the application submitted by the crime branch.

The prosecution highlighted that some vested groups in Hiranagar and Kathua area had started a well-organised campaign against the investigating agency by large-scale propaganda on electronic, print and social media to “mislead the masses”.

The prosecution also brought to notice that a targeted campaign to intimidate witnesses had come to fore.

“One such instance where a material witness in the case was influenced by some groups has already been brought to the notice of honourable trial court,” the application said.

The application also said that the case had taken “communal overtones” with some political leaders backing the accused in the case.

Chopra said the role of state MLA Choudhary Lal Singh had also been brought before the judge along with the newspaper cuttings.

“…former minister and BJP MLA from Basohli assembly constituency, Choudhary Lal Singh, who hails from Kathua district has reportedly floated an organisation namely ‘Dogra Swabhiman Sanghathan’ on July 22. The purpose of this organisation has, among other objectives, been formulated to defend the accused in the case as well as discredit the investigating agency.”

“A number of rallies have already been held to mobilise and unite a particular community,” the application said.

The crime branch also said that there is every apprehension of intimidation, security threat as well as creation of hurdles for production of material witnesses, in case, the names of the witnesses were disclosed in advance.

“Therefore…it is humbly prayed that the names of the witnesses may not be disclosed in advance in the interest of fairness of trial,” the application said.

The trial of Kathua rape and killing case was assigned to district and sessions court at Pathankot by the Supreme Court earlier this year after the victim’s family approached with a plea to transfer the case from Kathua.

The eight-year-old girl, belonging to nomadic tribe, was kidnapped on January 10 and her body was found on January 17. She was gangraped and later murdered. The crime branch has arrested eight people in the case. PTI