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The eighth accused in the case is a juvenile who moved a bail plea before the chief judicial magistrate. The matter will be heard on April 26.
The ghastly rape-and-murder of the eight-year-old girl from the Bakarwal Muslim community at a temple in Kathua has shook the nation’s conscience and triggered widespread protests across the country. Her body was found on January 17, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the area.
Following public outcry, two BJP ministers had to quit the Mehbooba Mufti cabinet after they had supported the accused at a public rally organised by Hindu Ekta Manch, a right-wing fringe outfit.
The accused, including the mastermind Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, sub-inspector Anand Dutta, two Special Police Officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, head constable Tilak Raj and civilian Parvesh Kumar, were booked under Sections 302 (murder), 376 (rape), 201 (destruction of evidence) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Ranbir Penal Code.
On Monday, the seven accused were produced before the court amid tight security. The administration deployed additional police force at the Kathua court complex following the April 9 fracas when members of the Jammu Bar Association tried to stop Crime Branch officials to file the chargesheet in the court.
Ram, the caretaker of the temple in Kathua, 90km from Jammu, is listed as the main conspirator behind the crime.
Ankur Sharma, the defence counsel, told reporters that this was the first time when the accused themselves had asked the court for a narco analysis test to “find out the truth”. “Sanji Ram said we are ready for a narco analysis test. Ram also said that he had faith in God,” Sharma said. The counsel added that the court directed the police to give the copy of the chargesheet to the accused as they were yet to get one.
Outside the court, Ram’s daughter demanded a CBI probe into the case and blamed a section of the media for “influencing investigations”.
AK Sawahney, the lawyer representing Tilak Raj, said, “I submitted to the court that I am depending on information from social media as I don’t have a copy of the chargesheet. Other accused are also yet to get the copy of the chargesheet. The judge then asked the public prosecutor to provide the copy to the counsel of the accused by 4:30pm Tuesday,” he said. He also alleged that that he wasn’t allowed to meet his client.
Special police officer Deepak Khajuria, alleged to have repeatedly raped the child, told reporters from the police van that he was also demanding a narco analysis test and a CBI probe.
The Crime Branch chargesheet said the horrific crime was part of a well-planned strategy to force the nomadic Muslim community out of the area, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba, IG, Crime Branch, said on Monday.
Immediately after the hearing, the accused were taken back to the jail.
The Jammu High Court Bar Association on Monday resumed work after staying away from courts for 12 days in support of handing over the Kathua case to CBI.