SC will monitor in-camera daily hearing.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the shifting of Kathua gandrape-cum-murder’s trial involving an eight-year-old girl from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab to ensure free and fair trial.
While ordering a day-to-day in-camera trial by district and sessions judge at Pathankot, the apex court refused to hand over the probe to CBI saying that there was no need as the charge sheet had already been filed after investigation.
A three-judge bench, he-aded by CJI Dipak Misra, said, “A fair trial is a sacrosanct principle under Article 21 of the Constitution and a ‘fair trial’ means fair to the accused persons, as well as to the victims of the crime.”
The bench, including Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, said, “Fair trial commands that there has to be free atmosphere where the victims, the accused and the witnesses feel safe. They must not suffer from any kind of phobia while attending the court. Fear and fair trial are contradictory in terms and they cannot be allowed to co-exist.” The order came on a petition by the victim’s father seeking transfer of the case to Chandigarh on the ground that the family was receiving death threats and that they feared for their lives.
The bench said that convenience of the complainant cannot be the sole consideration for transferring a criminal case out of the state.
“Courts have to consider the convenience of the accused, prosecution witnesses and larger interest of the society,” the bench said, observing that it will monitor the trial. The matter will now come up for hearing in the apex court on July 9. The bench after hearing Indira Jaising, senior counsel for the victim’s father, senior counsel Meenakshi Arora and three others for the accused and senior counsel Gopal Subramanium for the state ordered that the trial be fast-tracked on day-to-day basis. The Jammu and Kashmir government may appoint a special public prosecutor but it must ensure that witnesses are produced on time, the court said. The counsel for the accused alleged that the state police had botched up the probe, therefore, the probe should be entrusted to the CBI. When counsel for the accused insisted on a CBI probe, the bench did not pass any order and made it clear that no court, including the Jammu and Kashmir high court, should entertain any petition in relation to Kathua gangrape incident. The girl’s father welcomed the apex court’s decision and said he has full faith in judiciary.
“We only want justice…I have full faith in the judiciary and the government,” the father told PTI in Jammu over phone from Ramban district where he is camping along with other members of his family.
“We don’t favour a CBI probe either. We do not know CBI and our only desire is that justice is done,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said that the apex court’s decision would boost the morale of the state police which had left “no stone unturned” to ensure that the victim’s family gets justice.
Earlier, counsel for the J&K government submitted that it was ready for a fair trial in the state and opposed the transfer of the trial to any other state.
Opposing shifting of trial outside Kathua, two accused Sanji Ram and Vishal Jagotra said they have been implicated in the case.
The bench, however, accepted the plea by the victim’s father and transferred the case out of Kathua to Pathankot that is about 30 km away. The bench directed the state police to provide protection to the victim’s family, all the 221 witnesses, all the accused, including one juvenile, and ensure that they are brought to the court on the day of the trial.
The eight-year-old victim from a minority nomadic community had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in the Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.