The Jammu and Kashmir government today opposed in the Supreme Court a plea filed by the father of the victim in the Kathua case for transfer of trial to Chandigarh saying the state was committed to ensure a “fair, expeditious and impartial trial”.
In an affidavit, the state said that the prayer for transfer of trial was “misconceived” and the court would have to consider that prosecution witnesses in the case were residents of Jammu and Kashmir and shifting of trial outside the state would cause “great inconvenience”.
It also denied the allegations that prime accused Sanjhi Ram was supported by government officials merely because he was a retired revenue officer.
The affidavit was filed on a day when a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that its “real concern” was to see that a fair trial was conducted in the case.
“The real concern of this court is to see that a fair trial is conducted and ‘fair trial’ means fair to the accused as well as to the victims. In the present case, the victims are the family members of the deceased,” the bench, which also comprised justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said while hearing the Kathua matter.
“Apart from the fairness in procedure, the concept of speedy trial gets attracted. That apart, it is to be seen that both the sides are given protection and, if necessary, requisite legal assistance is provided. Keeping these aspects in view, we think it appropriate that the relief in the said case will be addressed first,” the bench said.
The affidavit by the state, filed through advocate Shoeb Alam, said, “the state is competent and fully equipped to provide adequate security to the victim’s family, witnesses of the case, judges and/or any other stake holder in the case”.
“Every specific threat/credible request for protection has been duly responded by the state by providing security. The state, being aware of its constitutional duty, is duty bound and committed to ensure that the trial is not affected in any manner,” it said.
“The requisite state machinery will be put into motion to ensure the conduct of a fair, expeditious and impartial trial in the matter so that justice is dispensed to the victim while the human rights of the victim’s family as well as the accused are protected in accordance with the law,” the affidavit said.
It further said that no grounds have been raised in the plea which may warrant transfer of trial outside the state.
The state has said that Jammu and Kashmir has its own penal law, the Ranbir Penal Code, procedural law and law of evidence and transfer of trial outside the state might not be practical and may end up in creating more anomalous situation.
It said that during the hearing before the top court, the petitioner’s counsel had reposed faith in the comprehensive probe carried out in the case by a special investigation team of the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police.
“As such, the victim’s family itself is satisfied with the probe conducted by the SIT,” it said, adding that pursuant to the court’s order, the advocate representing the victim’s family and a friend of the family have been provided security by the state.
It also said that security has been beefed up at the Juvenile Home, where an accused is currently lodged.
“The allegations pertaining to the support by government officials to the accused Sanjhi Ram, merely because he was a retired revenue official, upon which the petitioner apprehends that the trial will not be conducted in a fair and transparent manner is false and is denied,” the affidavit said.
It said that a fair and impartial probe was done in the case, and even the policemen, who had allegedly committed the offences, were arrested and named in a charge sheet.
The state maintained its stand that police officers were heckled and prevented, allegedly by protesting lawyers, from reaching the courtroom for filing a charge sheet in the case.
The victim’s father had moved the apex court apprehending threat to the family, a friend and their lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat.
Expressing satisfaction with the probe conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir police in the case, the victim’s father had sought transfer of trial from Kathua court to Chandigarh.
His petition is scheduled to come up for hearing tomorrow.
The eight-year-old child from a minority nomadic community had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
The state police’s Crime Branch, which probed the case, has filed the main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua.