Exclusive: Kathua Case Verdict Answers Questions, Dispels Theories

In over 400 pages, the judgment in the Kathua rape and murder case has answered some key questions and laid to rest some of the doubts which made this case a topic of heated national debate in the past year.

Six men were held guilty in the case involving abduction, gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old Gujjar Bakarwal girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district in January 2018. The verdict was delivered by judge Tejwinder Singh in the Pathankot court, where the case was transferred from Jammu amidst high tension.

Here’s are the highlights of the judgment accessed by The Quint:

1. Contention Over Confining Gujjar Bakarwal Girl to Devasthan

Since the incident occurred in January 2018, one of the biggest arguments used in favour of the accused was how a girl could be confined for days at a place of worship which was frequented by people of different villages – especially since it was a single hall with three windows and two doors.

The court judgment reads: The defence witnesses were unable to produce any document or photograph or video or pamphlet or donation receipt book which could prove the fact that the Devasthan was regularly used as a place of worship. There is no convincing evidence on record which could show that the festival of Lohri was actually celebrated in the Devasthan in January 2018 when the alleged occurrence took place. Accordingly, the evidence of the above mentioned defence witnesses regarding this fact cannot be believed.

In the following Q&A session with one of the witnesses who testified to the frequent use of the Devasthan and that Lohri was celebrated here, no evidence was presented for the claims made.

Can you produce in the court any poster or pamphlet in order to show that functions including Lohri were celebrated in the Devasthan between 13 January 2017 to 15 January 2018?

No, I cannot produce any poster or pamphlet in order to show that functions including Lohri were celebrated between 13 January 2017 to 15 January 2018.

Can you produce any receipt regarding donation etc or any other document to show that Lohri function was actually celebrated on 13 January 2018 onwards by collecting donations or otherwise?

No, I cannot provide any document or receipt in order to prove that the Lohri function was actually celebrated on 13 January 2018.

Can you produce any photograph or video in order to prove evidence in the court regarding actual celebration pf Lohri at the Devasthan?

No, I cannot produce any photograph/video in order to prove evidence in the court regarding actual celebration of Lohri at the Devasthan.

Do you need time to produce photographs or video in order to bring by way of evidence in the court to prove factum of celebration of Lohri function at Devasthan?

No, I do not need time to produce the photographs in the court. No video was ever filmed while celebration of Lohri function at Devasthan.

2. Was the Motive of Crime to Dislodge the Gujjar Bakarwals?

The prosecution argued that local residents of the area want to expel the Bakarwal community. Consequently, a criminal conspiracy was hatched to kidnap the minor girl of Bakarwal community and shock the said community in such a manner that they they feel compelled to leave the area.

The defence argued that there was no motive for the accused persons to have committed the offences for which the accused are being tried.

The judgment reads: There is nothing on record which could show that there is false implication of accused persons in this case. It is manifest from the background of the area that strained relations between local residents and Bakarwal community exists. The prosecution has brought on record a lost of eleven FIRs for the preceding two years which proves a constant conflict between local residents and Bakarwal community. As such this court is of the conclusion that there was a strong motive behind this occurrence.

3. On All Charges Being Dropped Against Vishal Jangotra

While six others were convicted one was let off, and that is Sanji Ram’s son, Vishal Jangotra. In the narrative built right after the police began investigation was that Vishal, who is son of Sanji Ram, was accused of returning from his college in Muzaffarnagar and raping * Miss 'A'.

The court judgment reads: On the basis of statement of accounts of five witnesses, coupled with documentary evidence on record such as original answer sheets of examination, entries in passbook, attendance sheet, attendance sheet record, statements of counts, CD and pendrive pertaining to Zee News, categorically proves the fact that accused Vishal Jangotra during days of occurence was not present in Kathua. Rather he was present in Meeranpur, Muzaffarnagar, and was appearing for his examinations. As such it is manifest that Vishal is an innocent in this trial. Accordingly. his 'Plea of Alibi' is accepted by this court and accused Vishal Jangotra is acquitted of all charges framed against him in this case.

4. Why Not Capital Punishment and Life Imprisonment?

The prosecution argued that the facts of the case clearly shows the offences committed by the accused come under the category of the rarest of rare cases, therefore the accused persons should be given death penalty. He further averred that they do not deserve any mercy.

The defence argued that the present case does not come under the category of the rarest of rare cases, therefore the accused persons should be dealt with the law of the land regarding the matter of sentencing and they may be granted life imprisonment.

The judgment reads: A duty has been cast upon this court by flux of law to punish the guilty in accordance with the law, keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case.

Accordingly, keeping in view all the relevant factors in mind, especially the fact that accused persons are not previous convicts and there is every possibility to rehabilitate and reform them, all three were awarded life imprisonment.

Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh were awarded life imprisonment and Rs 1 lakh fine for murder and 25 years rigorous imprisonment for gang rape.

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