A special Pathankot court on Monday convicted six persons in the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from a village near Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir. The court sentenced three convicts life imprisonment and five-year jail terms for the other three.
The in-camera trial in the case that shook the nation ended on June 3, when district and sessions judge Tejwinder Singh had announced that the verdict was to be delivered today.
Elaborate security arrangements had been made in and around the court and in Kathua in view of the pronouncement of the judgement.
According to the 15-page charge sheet, the eight-year-old girl, who was kidnapped on January 10 last year, was allegedly raped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days before she was bludgeoned to death.
The day-to-day trial commenced in the first week of June last year at the district and sessions court in Pathankot in neighbouring state of Punjab, about 100 km from Jammu and 30 km from Kathua, after the Supreme Court ordered that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir.
The apex court order came after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a charge sheet in the sensational case, which shocked the nation.
The prosecution team in the case comprised J K Chopra, S S Basra and Harminder Singh.
The Crime Branch arrested village head Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, juvenile nephew and his friend Anand Dutta, and two special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma. Head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, were also arrested.
Charges of rape and murder were framed by the district and sessions judge against seven out of the eight accused. The trial against the juvenile is yet to begin as his petition on determining his age is to be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Here's a timeline of events
January 10: The eight-year-old from a minority nomadic community had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in Jammu region on January 10, 2018.
January 12: Her father lodged a missing complaint at the Hiranagar Police station.
January 17: A week later, the body of the girl was found near her house. There were serious injuries on her face. Angry nomads blocked the Jammu-Pathankot highway, demanding justice for the little girl. The police had formed a Special Investigation Team to probe the case.
"We have filed an FIR. A SIT has been constituted," said SD Jamwal, Inspector General of Police, Jammu.
January 18: Opposition parties staged a walkout from the Legislative Assembly to protest against the murder of the Kathua girl. The then J&k chief minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed her anguish over the gruesome murder of eight-year-old girl.
January 22: J&K police hands over case of alleged kidnapping and murder to the crime branch. A Special Investigation Team was been set up to investigate claims that unidentified people had allegedly tortured and killed an eight-year-old girl belonging to the Bakarwal tribe. The child’s father alleged that his daughter was raped and killed. “There were bite marks on her face and shoulders,” he said. “The bones in her body were broken.”
February 16: A Hindu right-wing group took out a protest in Jammu in support of the accused and blamed the government of not conducting a proper probe.
March 1: Two BJP ministers—Minister for Forest Chowdhary Lal Singh and Minister for Commerce and Industries Chander Prakash Ganga—attended a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch. The party’s MLAs from Kathua and Hiranagar constituencies, Rajeev Jasrotia and Kuldip Raj, were also present at the rally.
March 21: Eight people were arrested on different dates and charged for the crime, including four police officers who are accused of “destroying evidences”. Street protests erupted at various places in Kashmir. One of the accused had earlier claimed to be 15 years old, but a medical examination determined his age to be 19 at the time of the crime.
April 4: Investigations revealed that the girl was kept in a temple and was drugged, tortured, gang-raped and finally killed. She was strangled to death after an accused hit her with a stone, twice, to make sure “she had indeed died”.
April 10: A group of lawyers attempted to prevent the police from filing charge-sheet at the Kathua court complex. The team of crime branch submitted the charge-sheet at the residence of chief judicial magistrate, which stated that the rape was planned to dislodge the Bakarwal community from the area.
April 13: Narendra Modi condemns the incident after months. The two BJP ministers, who had attended the rally in support of the accused, resigned from their posts.
April 14: UN secretary general Antonio Guterres termed the incident as 'horrific'
April 16: Trial in the case begins in Kathua.
April 18: The Delhi High Court asked various media houses to deposit Rs 10 lakh each as penalty for disclosing the name and other details of the gang-rape victim.
May 7: The Supreme Court shifted the case from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab with instructions that trial should be fast-tracked.
June 3: The case comes to a conclusion after the examination of 114 witnesses during the trial.
June 10: Six accused are convicted by Pathankot court. The court sentenced three men to life imprisonment, while the other three were given five-year jail terms.