Kathua rape-murder case: Amid fault lines, a prosecution team that cut across the divide

Arun Sharma
Heavy security deployed outside the Judicial Courts Complex ahead of the verdict in Pathankot on Monday. (PTI Photo)

As the protests following the Kathua rape and murder case played out as a polarised discourse, the government s team of investigators and the lawyers cut across the pide. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) was initially headed by IG Alok Puri. Following his retirement, IG Syed Ahafadul Mujtabha. Both officials hailed from Jammu city.

The other members of the SIT were SSP, J&K Police Crime Branch, Ramesh Kumar Jalla, Additional SP Naveed Pirzada, Deputy SP Shwetambri Sharma, Sub-Inspector Irfan Wani, Inspector K K Gupta, Sub-Inspector Irfan Wani and Assistant Sub-Inspector Tariq Ahmed. Later, Deputy SP Bharat Bhushan and one Kotwal joined the team.

SSP Jalla is a Kashmiri Pandit, ASP Naveed Pirzada is from Kashmir, DSP Shwetambri from Jammu, DSP Bharat Bhushan from Kishtwar, Inspector K K Gupta from Udhampur, SI Irfan Wani from Ramban and ASI Tariq from Jammu. Kotwal is also from Jammu.

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Since the police personnel at Hiranagar police station were allegedly bribed by the accused to hush up the case, the investigators worked against heavy odds. To destroy evidence, the convicts had even washed off the deceased s clothes, sources said.

A bigger challenge emerged after the SIT cracked the case and arrested the accused because the lawyers too had joined the demand for a CBI probe into the incident.

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When the Crime Branch team went to Kathua to present challan against the accused, it faced stiff resistance from protesting lawyers.
Determined to prove the case against the accused during the trial in the Pathankot court where the Supreme Court had shifted the case, the Jammu and Kashmir administration engaged senior lawyer Santokh Singh Basra from Punjab and Pathankot district attorney Jagdishwar Kumar Chopra to represent it.

Apart from this, the state administration appointed Harminder Singh, chief prosecutor at Samba district court, and Bhupinder Singh, chief prosecutor with the Crime Branch, as special public prosecutors to pursue the prosecution s case at Pathankot. To avoid allegations of the prosecution getting influenced by any community, none of the Crime Branch counsels hailed from the victim s or the accused s community.

When contacted, IG Mujtabha said, The point of investigators stands vindicated. The court has given benefit of doubt to one person. We all examine it and if needed, we may go for an appeal.