Kathua case: Prosecution to share names of witnesses who do not face threat

Kathua case: Prosecution to share names of witnesses who do not face threat
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Pathankot: The district and sessions court here, hearing the gruesome rape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl, today asked the prosecution to share, a day in advance with defending lawyers, names of those witnesses who do not have any security threat, a lawyer said.

Pathankot District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh, while hearing a petition of defence counsel for disclosure of names of witnesses in advance, left it to the prosecution to share the names of only such witnesses, a day in advance with defence lawyers, who do not have any security threat, Special Public Prosecutor J K Chopra told PTI here.

The court, while disposing off three applications of defence counsel, asked it would be appropriate to direct the prosecution to disclose the names of witnesses in advance a day before examination barring those who are under threat, Chopra said.

Defence counsel A K Swahaney told reporters that the court agreed with their plea for disclosure of witnesses names in advance.

The defence had last month moved the court with the plea saying that it would help them in preparing for their case.

The judge, however, took cognizance of the crime branch application in which they had pleaded that disclosing names in advance will have a bearing on their security, Chopra said.

However, it agreed that such names, who do not face any threat, will be shared in advance, he added.

The crime branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Police had highlighted that some vested groups in Hiranagar and Kathua area had launched 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.

“…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 court took note of these concerns raised by the crime branch.

The trial of Kathua rape and killing case was assigned to the 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 allegedly kidnapped on January 10 and her body was found on January 17. It is alleged that she was gangraped and later murdered. The crime branch has arrested eight people, including a juvenile in the case. PTI