National

Supreme Court will transfer Kathua case if there is ‘slightest possibility’ of lack of fair trial: CJI

A separate petition filed by the victim's father for transferring the case to Chandigarh is due for hearing on April 27 before the same Bench. File

A separate petition filed by the victim's father for transferring the case to Chandigarh is due for hearing on April 27 before the same Bench. File   | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

The Kathua rape and murder case trial will be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir at the “slightest possibility” of lack of a fair trial, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra assured the victim’s family on Thursday.

The CJI, who is leading a three-judge Bench, made the remarks after a Bar Council of India (BCI) committee, led by former High Court Chief Justice Tarun Agarwala, filed a confidential report in the Supreme Court stating that lawyers’ protests demanding a CBI enquiry into the case is “justified.”

The report was met with scathing criticism by a group of Supreme Court lawyers led by advocate P.V. Dinesh, who said the BCI panel exceeded their brief. They were only tasked with the job of finding out whether the local lawyers obstructed the trial proceedings, he added.

 

Instead, they seemed to have formed opinions on the investigation by the State Crime Branch, which had filed the charge sheet and forensically and physically identified the persons accused of gang-raping and murdering the eight-year-old victim. “This report is nothing but a whitewash,” Mr. Dinesh submitted.

But the CJI said the primary concern of the Supreme Court at this point was to provide fair trial in the case. The court did not want to divert its attention from the aspect of fair trial. An inquiry into the conduct of lawyers of Kathua and Jammu may take the limelight away from the quest for justice for the victim.

“Let us not get into what the Bar Council says... If we do, the victim goes away from our attention,” the CJI said.

“Our first concern and our constitutional concern is to ensure fair trial and procedure, to provide protection to the victim’s lawyer so there is no obstruction to justice and finally to transfer the case, if found necessary,” he observed orally.

 

At one point, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the BCI, also voiced his agreement that this was no time to digress from the “core issue” of fair trial for victims and the accused.

Court urged to monitor trial

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, for the victim’s father, urged the court to monitor the trial. Chief Justice Misra said the court could examine the prospect of fast-tracking the trial and “oversee its progress.”

A separate petition filed by the victim's father seeking the transfer of the case to Chandigarh is due for hearing on April 27 before the same Bench.

Earlier this month, the Bench took suo motu cognisance of a written submission handed over by a group of apex court advocates informing the court that Kathua lawyers had opposed the filing of the charge sheet in the case. They also obstructed the victim’s counsel from appearing in court.

 

BCI's charge against media

In its report, the BCI said lawyers did not obstruct court proceedings and the media had misreported the incidents. It said the Kathua lawyers had only raised slogans asking the Crime Branch to “go back” and let the CBI conduct a probe.

The apex court lawyers earlier argued that the demand for a CBI probe had more to do with efforts to influence the State police investigation, which led to the arrest of eight men. These accused include policemen who are suspected of destroying evidence. A 15-page charge sheet has been filed in this case.

The charge sheet lists as the main conspirator the caretaker of the temple in Rasana village where the child, who was a member of the Bakherwal nomadic community, was allegedly kept.

She was missing since January 10. On January 17, her mutilated body was found, bearing the marks of gang rape.

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 10:40:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kathua-case-our-real-concern-is-to-see-a-fair-trial-says-sc/article23680387.ece

Next Story