Kathua rape: SC right in moving trial

FILE PHOTO: Students shout slogans during a protest against the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua near Jammu, in Srinagar, April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Ismail/File Photo

The Supreme Court has done well to transfer the trial in the Kathua gang-rape and murder case from Jammu to Pathankot in neighbouring Punjab. The dastardly crime of abduction, gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from a nomadic tribe in Kathua has been so much politicised that a fair trial would not have been possible in Jammu. The incident was used for communal polarisation of society. An openly communal outfit called the ‘Hindu Ekta Manch’ opposed the investigation by the Crime Branch of the Jammu & Kashmir Police. Lawyers in Jammu tried to prevent the filing of charge-sheet, ministers and state BJP leaders were seen supporting the accused and a CBI investigation was sought to find the “real culprits”. Last week, Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta, who belongs to the BJP, called the crime a “minor incident”. The lawyer who represented the victim’s family has regularly received threats from many quarters. It is clear that all this vitiated the atmosphere in Jammu and a free and fair trial would not have been possible there. The challenge has come from the communal forces which dominate Jammu’s politics and society.

The Supreme Court has said that “there has to be a free atmosphere where the victims, the accused and the witnesses feel safe”. It is usually when the court thinks that a state government cannot ensure such an atmosphere that a case is transferred from that state to another. But that may not be the case with the Kathua case trial because there are no questions about the investigation done by the state police. That is why the Supreme Court rejected the demand for a CBI investigation. The court also allowed the Jammu & Kashmir government to appoint a public prosecutor in the case. That shows that the court has no distrust in the government over the investigation or conduct of the case. Its concern was about the conduct of other agencies and the transfer of the case was prompted by that concern.

The moral sense of some leaders is so warped that they could see the rape and murder of a small girl only through the political prism. There is no place for the idea of justice in that view. The transfer of the case to Pathankot may not make the politicians see the real issues of rule of law and justice involved in the case. But it provides a chance for justice to prevail. The court has given directions for a speedy trial in the case. Hopefully, the culprits will be brought to book without delay.

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Kathua rape: SC right in moving trial

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