Pathankot। A Special Court in Pathankot convicted six people for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua last year. It pronounced a life imprisonment of 25 years to three, temple priest and mastermind Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar.
Investigating officers Raj and Dutta, and Special Police Officer Surinder Kumar were sentenced to five years in jail for destroying crucial evidence in the case.
Sanji Ram’s son Vishal was acquitted due to lack of evidence, but the fate of his minor nephew, the eight accused in the case, will be decided by the juvenile court.
His trial is yet to begin as a petition to determine his age is awaiting judgment in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Pathankot District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh announced the verdict in an open court. The in-camera trial in the case ended on June 3.
All the six accused can move the High Court against the trial court verdict within one month.
Families of the convicted, who were present in the court in Pathankot, some 100 kms from Jammu and 30 kms from Kathua, accused the media for the verdict. “This is a bad judgment and we are going to challenge it in appropriate court,” said a defence counsel.
Elaborate security arrangements had been made at the trial court for the verdict because of the high-profile nature of the case.
Kashmir Valley relieved after Kathua verdict
The verdict of a Special Court convicting six out of 7 accused in Pathankot was received with relief and satisfaction in the Kashmir Valley.
Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti received the judgment with relief and as vindication of the country’s judicial system.
“Amen to that. The guilty deserve the most severe punishment possible under law. And to those politicians who defended the accused, vilified the victim and threatened the legal system no words of condemnation are enough,” Abdullah tweeted.
Mufti too welcomed the judgement. “High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8-year-old child was drugged, raped repeatedly and then bludgeoned to death.
“Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited and culprits get exemplary punishment.”
Senior separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also welcomed the judgement. He tweeted: “Welcome the court verdict on the Kathua gang rape-murder case. I hope that exemplary punishment is given to the culprits.”
People in Kashmir said that it was ultimately the truth that has prevailed and the judgement by the trial court has proved that nobody is above the law.
“If anybody had any misgivings about the delivery of justice in this case, those misgivings have been set to rest finally,” said Suhail Mir, a local lawyer.
Mehrajuddin, a fruit seller in Srinagar said: “The people who can even think of such a heinous crime have no religion. Justice has finally been delivered to the innocent victim in this case”.
Others felt that exemplary punishment to perpetrators of such crimes would go a long way in preventing their recurrence.
“Making an example of the guilty will ensure that our daughters are safe to whatever region or religion they belong to,” said Bashir Ahmad, a retired bank employee.