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Posted at: Apr 17, 2018, 12:46 AM; last updated: Apr 17, 2018, 12:46 AM (IST)

Kathua case: All accused plead not guilty

Say they’re ready for narco test | Juvenile moves bail application | Next hearing on April 28
Kathua case: All accused plead not guilty
‘Mastermind’ Sanji Ram arrives in the Sessions Court in Kathua. REUTERS

Arteev Sharma &Sanjay Pathak

Tribune reporters

Jammu/Kathua, April 16

All eight accused in the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua on Monday pleaded not guilty and requested the court for a narcoanalysis “to bring out the truth” in the case that has created a nationwide outrage and communal divide in the state.

Seven of the eight accused were produced before Principal District and Sessions Judge Sanjay Gupta, who asked the state Crime Branch to give them copies of the chargesheet and fixed April 28 as the next date of hearing.

The eighth accused, a juvenile, moved a bail application before the Chief Judicial Magistrate. The matter was posted for April 24. On the opening day of the trial in the Sessions Court in Kathua, lawyers Ankur Sharma and Aseem Sawhney, appearing for the accused, regretted that they were not provided copies of the detailed chargesheet with 490 pages which “reflected the casual approach” of the Crime Branch. After hearing the defence and prosecution counsels, Judge Sanjeev Gupta asked the state Crime Branch to give copies of the chargesheet to the accused by tomorrow. The first hearing lasted for just about 10 minutes.

“One of the accused himself requested the judge to conduct their narcoanalysis test to ascertain whether they had done anything wrong. The accused said they were ready for a narco test,” defence lawyer Sawhney said.

“They (Crime Branch and Chief Minister) want to fast-track the trial but they have not done proper homework. What is prohibiting the Crime Branch from preparing copies of the chargesheet for us? The day got wasted because of the prosecution and the Crime Branch,” he added.

Ankur Sharma, another defence lawyer, said: “Even the copies of the chargesheets provided to one or two families of the accused are defective as all vital documents, including the forensic science lab and medical reports, are missing.”

Sharma said that all accused had raised the demand for a narco test. The “main conspirator” Sanji Ram told reporters that a narco test should be conducted on them to bring out the truth. “Bhagwan dekh raha hai (God is watching),” he was heard saying.

The demand was also voiced by Deepak Khajuria, a special police officer (SPO) arrested in the case, who also sought a CBI probe into the case. Khajuria alleged that they were “tortured” in the custody by the Crime Branch to make “confessional statements”.

A minor girl from a nomadic community in a village in Kathua went missing on January 10. The chargesheet says she was allegedly kidnapped, kept sedated and gangraped before being bludgeoned to death. Her body was recovered from a forest area of Rasana on January 17.

A total of eight persons, including policemen, a revenue official and a juvenile have been arrested in connection with the case. The chargesheet of the Crime Branch said the crime was part of a “conspiracy to drive out Gujjars and Bakerwals from the area”.

Immediately after the brief hearing in the Sessions Court, the seven accused were shifted back to the jail under heavy security.

As the trial began inside the court, Sanji Ram’s daughter Madhu Sharma protested outside, demanding a CBI probe.

Earlier, the accused were brought to the court amid tight security arrangements. There was heavy police presence at the Kathua complex following the tension on April 9 when members of the local bar association did not allow the Crime Branch to submit its chargesheet in the case. Sanji Ram, caretaker of the ‘devisthan’ in a village in Kathua, about 90 km from Jammu, is listed as the mastermind in the crime. He was allegedly joined by special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar, son Vishal Jangotra, and nephew, a juvenile.

The chargesheet also names investigating officers head constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence. In a narco test, the subject is injected with sodium pentothal or sodium amytal. The dose is dependent on the person’s sex, age, health and physical condition. It does not have any legal sanctity as evidence until a court gives permission to conduct these tests. The test only helps as corroborative and not as primary evidence, say legal experts. (Inputs from PTI)

Accused to get copies of chargesheet  

  • On the opening day of the trial in the Sessions Court in Kathua, lawyers appearing for the accused regretted that they were not provided copies of the detailed chargesheet with 490 pages which "reflected the casual approach" of the Crime Branch
  • After hearing the defence and prosecution counsels, Judge Sanjeev Gupta asked the state Crime Branch to give copies of the chargesheet to the accused by Tuesday

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