Jammu: Putting an end to the political storm in Jammu versus Kashmir on the brutal Kathua rape case, Pathankot special court on Monday awarded life imprisonment to three accused. The three policemen including a sub-inspector involved in the case were awarded five years each in jail for destroying evidence.

Court delivers justice

The verdict came as a relief to the victim's family. 

The minor girl was abducted, given sedatives, gang-raped and strangulated to death by the three main accused in January 2018. They later dumped her body in the forests.

The bench headed by Tejwinder Singh convicted the six men on the bases of charge-sheet filed by the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir. However, Vishal Jangotra, son of one of the accused Sanji Ram, was acquitted.

Meanwhile, Sanji Ram, who was the main accused, was convicted under 302, 363, 120-B, 376 of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) of Jammu and Kashmir.

Men in uniform butcher humanity

Three policemen were found guilty in the heinous crime, including sub-inspector Anand Dutta, SPO Surinder Verma, and head constable Tilak Raj. They have been convicted under section 201 of RPC.

Sanji Ram, SPO Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar have also been convicted by the court for their involvement in the case under sections 120, 376-D and 302 of RPC.

The eighth person, who was accused in the case is a juvenile whose age is yet to be determined. 

A brief background

As per the victim's family, the girl had gone to the pond during the afternoon. But when she did not return, they started searching for her. A woman in the village said that she saw the girl being dragged.

According to the report, the victim's mother went to a temple to pray for her safe return where she met accused Sanji Ram. He said that the girl would return back and that there was no need to worry. 

After two days, a missing report was filed on January 12 by the police station in Hiranagar and search operations were launched. The family alleged that the local police team including one of the convicts Deepak Khajuria pressurised the family members and tried to dodge the investigation.   

On January 17, the mutilated body of the minor girl was found in the bushes close to the residence of main accused Sanji Ram.

The family claimed that they found the mutilated body with torture marks like twisted wrists, human bites and burn marks. Soon after the recovery of the body, tension gripped Hiranagar as locals held a demonstration accusing Sanji Ram. Hiranagar police after some days of investigation arrested a juvenile and claimed to have worked out the case. 

Reports claim that Hindu Ekta Manch defended the rape accused and demanded that the CBI probe into the brutal abduction, gang-rape and murder of the minor girl.

Case transferred to Crime Branch

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti handed over the case to Crime Branch of Jammu on the request of the victim's family. 

Even as two former BJP ministers Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga claimed that they were sent by the BJP’s leadership in Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti sacked both of them from her cabinet, creating a wedge between the two alliance partners.

Annoyed with the party as they did not support him, Choudhary Lal Singh started a campaign demanding CBI probe into the case and held a series of public rallies.

In Jammu, some regional political parties, and even some leaders of the BJP alleged that Mufti ordered the Crime Branch probe to malign the image of Dogras.

The Crime Branch in its findings claimed that the clothes of the minor victim were washed by the policemen before sending them to the forensic science lab.

“The girl was kept under the influence of sedatives which was purchased locally from a shop and she was hidden in the temple in Rasana for few days before strangulating her to death in a brutal manner. The girl was repeatedly gang-raped by the main accused persons, while local police officials, who were investigating the case destroyed the evidence,” says the charge-sheet. 

Justice prevails

Today’s verdict about the 25 year life-term imprisonment for Sanjhi Ram (main accused), Special Police Officer (SPO) of J&K Police Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar has vindicated the Crime Branch probe (convicted under section 302, 363, 120-B, and 376 of Ranbir Panel Code (RPC), even as one of the persons namely Vishal, son of Sanjhi Ram (main accused) was acquitted from all the charges. A case is underway in a court to determine the age of the juvenile involved as the eighth accused.

Apprehending trouble, authorities have strengthened security arrangements in Kathua and Pathankot by deploying policemen and paramilitary personnel in large numbers.