Kathua rape and murder accused plead not guilty, demand narco test

Apr 16, 2018, 20:51 IST | Mid-day online desk

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

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The eight people, who were accused of raping and murdering an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, pleaded not guilty during the trial of the case which began on Monday. The judge has asked for a narco-analysis test on the accused.

Seven of the eight accused were produced before District and Sessions Judge Sanjeev Gupta, who asked the state Crime Branch to give them copies of the charge sheet and fixed April 28 as the next date of hearing. The eighth accused is a juvenile who moved a bail application before the chief judicial magistrate. The matter was posted for April 26. The accused were presented before the court which was packed with lawyers and a heavy posse of policemen.

The child from a minority nomadic community was allegedly held in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district for a week in January this year during which she was kept sedated and sexually assaulted before being bludgeoned to death.

According to the chargesheets filed by the Crime Branch, the abduction, rape, and killing of the girl was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the nomadic community from the area. A separate charge sheet was filed for the juvenile.

The counsel for the accused demanded a copy of the charge sheet filed by the Crime Branch on April 9 before the chief judicial magistrate. Later talking to reporters, Ankur Sharma, counsel for accused Sanji Ram, his son and others, said that the lawyers raised the issue with the judge for providing copies of charge sheets.

Another lawyer A K Sawahney, who is pleading the case of police constable Tilak Raj for the destruction of evidence, said that while the chief minister was talking about fast-track trial, challan copies had not been provided to them till today.

Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the 'devisthan' (temple) in the village in Kathua, about 90 km from Jammu, is listed as the main conspirator behind the crime, told the judge that they wanted narco analysis test and were ready for it. In a narco-analysis 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. After a brief hearing in the sessions court during which the public prosecutor assured of handing over the charge sheet tomorrow, the seven accused were shifted back to the jail under heavy security.

Special police officer Deepak Khajuria, who is alleged to have repeatedly raped the child, told reporters from the police van that he was also demanding a narco test, also known as the "truth test", and a CBI probe. As the trial began inside the court, main accused Sanji Ram's daughter Madhu Sharma protested outside, demanding a CBI probe.

There was a 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 charge sheet in the case. The charge sheet also names the investigating officers -- head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta -- who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.

A large number of people assembled on the road leading to the court blocked it and held protests against a section of national media accusing it of "portraying" the demand for a CBI probe as pro-rapists and pro-culprits, thereby damaging the reputation of the entire village.

Also Read: Kathua Rape And Murder Case: SC Asks Jammu And Kashmir Government To Protect Victim's Kin, Lawyer

Edited by mid-day online desk, with inputs from PTI

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