Three get lifer, 3 sentenced to 5-yr term

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 6/11/2019 12:39:26 PM

# 1 acquitted getting ‘benefit of doubt’ # Prosecution may appeal against acquittal

JAMMU, Jun 10: District and Sessions Judge Pathankot Dr Tejwinder Singh Monday awarded life imprisonment to three main convicts in Kathua minor rape and murder case. However three other convicts, all police officers, were sentenced to five years imprisonment for destruction of evidence.
However, son of the mastermind of this horrific crime was acquitted getting ‘benefit of doubt.’ “The court acquitted Vishal Jangotra, son of mastermind Sanji Ram, giving him the ‘benefit of doubt’,” Mubeen Farooqi, who represented the victim’s family in the court, told reporters after verdict was announced.
The eighth accused, reported to be a juvenile, was not put on trial because the high court is yet to rule on a petition about his age.
Holding that perpetrators of the gangrape and murder of minor acted as if there is a “law of jungle” prevalent in the society, judge Tejwinder Singh summed up the enormity of the crime with a touching couplet by Mirza Ghalib which says that hunters had placed the net near a nest and the young one was caught before it could take its first flight.
Detailing about the quantum of punishment, the prosecution team members stated that the court sentenced the three main accused — Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the devsthanam (temple) where the crime took place, Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria, and Parvesh Kumar — to life imprisonment and also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each.
“The three were also handed different jail terms for various offences under the Ranbir Penal Code. The jail terms will run concurrently with the life term. The remaining three accused — Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and Special Police Officer Surender Verma — were charged with destruction of evidence and awarded five years jail besides a fine of Rs 50,000 each. If they do not deposit the fine, they will have to serve an additional six months in jail,” they informed.
The prosecution team comprising lawyers J K Chopra, S S Basra, Harminder Singh and Bhupinder Singh, had demanded capital punishment for the main accused. The team hinted that it may appeal against the sole acquittal.
Inspector General Police (IGP) Crime Branch, Afad-ul-Mujtaba too reacted on similar lines. In his reaction to the court verdict, Mujtaba said, “We will go through the contents of the judgment after receiving its copy. And we would seriously explore the possibility of going for an appeal against the acquittal of one of the accused and enhancement of the punish for six convicted in the case as we had sought capital punishment for the convicts.”
However, he said the judgment pronounced by the Special Court in Pathankot vindicated the point of investigation of the Crime Branch which conducted the investigation and filed charge sheet last year.
“We have sought capital punishment against all three accused convicted of murder and gang rape. It was hard work of all of us and a perfect blend of investigation and legal brains. We have achieved 99 per cent result,” the statement issued by prosecution team read.
The father of the minor victim told reporters that he too had expected capital punishment for the criminals. “They should have been dealt the same way as they murdered my daughter. How could they acquit one accused in the crime? That’s injustice,” he said.
The families of the accused alleged that the verdict was a result of media trial. “The media made a case against us. We are a victim of the media,” a relative of one of the accused said. One of the defence lawyers claimed that they would now challenge the verdict in a higher court.
Earlier while announcing the verdict and punishment to main accused, the District and Sessions Judge convicted Deepak Khajuria, Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Sanji Ram under Sections 302/376-D/120-B, 328/ 363/201/343 r/w section 34 Ranbir Penal Code (RPC). However Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, Tilak Raj and Surinder Kumar were convicted u/s 201 RPC r/w section 34 & 120-B RPC.
“Deepak Khajuria, Parvesh Kumar and Sanji Ram were awarded imprisonment for life and fine Rs 50,000 u/s 120-B RPC, imprisonment for life and fine Rs 100000 u/s 302 r/w section 34, u/s 376-D r/w 34 RPC rigorous imprisonment for a period of 25 years, u/s 376-D/511 Rigorous Imprisonment for a period of 10 years and fine Rs 25000 u/s 328 RPC Rigorous Imprisonment for a period of 10 years and fine Rs 50,000, u/s 363 imprisonment for a period 7 years and fine Rs 50,000, u/s 201 RI for a period 5 years and fine Rs 50,000 and u/s 343 RI for two years and fine Rs 20,000,” the court held.
Court also awarded five years Rigorous Imprisonment and fine Rs 50,000 to Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, Tilak Raj and Surinder Kumar u/s 201 RPC r/w section 34 & 120-B RPC.
“All the sentences shall run concurrently and it is further clarified that the period of detention already undergone by the convicts, during the pendency of investigation/trial of this case shall be set-off against the substantive sentence of imprisonment awarded against all the convicts,” the court clarified.
Sessions Judge Dr Tejwinder Singh started his 432 pages judgment with a Ghalib’s couplet, “Pinha tha daam-e-sakht qareeb aashiyan ke Udhne na paaye the ki giraftaar hum hue.”
“In the present case, facts are many but truth is one that under a criminal conspiracy, an innocent eight years old minor girl has been kidnapped, wrongfully confined, drugged, raped and ultimately murdered. The perpetrators of this crime have acted in such a manner as if there is a ‘law of the jungle’ prevalent in the society. It has to be adjudicated in the present trial to find out the persons who were ‘partners in the crime’ so committed against the minor girl child and accordingly a “poetic justice” needs to be done to the perpetrators of the crime. It is well said that “Heaven or Hell are not geographically locations, our thoughts, actions and character creates the situation of heaven or hell for us.” Needless to say that commission of this devilish and monstrous crime has sent shocking waves across the society and the actual guilty needs to be brought under the sword of justice,” he observed.
“Needless to mention here that the crime committed against minor child is shameful, inhumane and barbaric but as per Indian Criminal Law, the evidence brought on record has to be tested on a touchstone in order to find out the real culprits, so that no innocent person is crushed under the wheels of law in an unjust manner,” he observed while announcing his historic verdict.
Among the evidences that the court relies on is a strand of the eight-year-old's hair that was recovered from the temple, whose chief priest Sanji Ram was convicted and awarded life sentence. It rubbishes the defence's claim that the girl could not have been confined in the temple and raped given that Lohri was being celebrated there, as the defence did not find any evidence to support their claim.
The court says it was proven categorically that Deepak Khajuria, Pravesh Kumar and Sanji Ram (along with Sanji Ram's nephew who has claimed to be a juvenile and whose appeal is being heard separately by J&K high court) 'entered into a criminal conspiracy with each other' to kidnap, drug, rape and murder the girl and went on to commit these acts.
However while acquitting Vishal Jangotra, the Judge held, “Court after hearing both the sides observed that on the basis of evidence, statement of account of bank, attendance sheet, categorically proves the fact that accused Vishal Jangotra during the day of occurrence was not present in Kathua rather he was present in Meeranpur, Muzaffarnagar UP and was appearing for his examinations. As such it is manifest that accused Vishal Jangotra is an innocent in this trial and accordingly his “Plea of Alibi” is accepted by this court and acquitted him of all the charges framed against him in this Court.”



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