Kathua Case: The rape and murder of eight-year-old had triggered widespread protests.
Six men have been held guilty in the gang-rape, torture and killing of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua in January last year, which shocked and disturbed the country. Those convicted by a special court in Pathankot include former government officer Sanji Ram, who was believed to be the mastermind. The seventh accused, reportedly a juvenile, has been let off.
Those convicted may face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment and a maximum of death penalty.
The in-camera trial in the case ended on June 3, following which District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh announced that the verdict would be delivered today. Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place because of the high-profile nature of the case.
The girl, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic tribe, was kidnapped and held captive at a village temple in Kathua district on January 10 last year. She was drugged, starved and repeatedly raped for days. She was finally strangled and her head was bashed in with a rock.
The child’s mutilated body was found in a forest area on January 17. Three days later, one of the accused – reportedly a juvenile – was arrested by police. The trial in his case is yet to begin because a petition on determining his age is yet to be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Amid nationwide outrage over the savage killing of the child, the case was handed over to the Crime Branch, following which a police sub-inspector and a head constable were arrested for destroying evidence. Sanji Ram, a retired revenue officer, surrendered on March 20 last year.
Besides Sanji Ram, the others arrested in the case were his son Vishal, a nephew whose age is being disputed, his friend Anand Dutta and two special police officers identified as Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma. The policemen accused of destroying evidence are Head Constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta.
The investigations of the Crime Branch suggested that the girl was raped and murdered in an effort to strike fear among nomads frequenting the Kathua area and drive them out.