As Family Drops Rajawat, Here’s a Look at Who Has Been Fighting Kathua Rape and Murder Case
While Deepika Singh Rajawat says she played a crucial role in legal proceedings, the victim’s family accuses her of trying to gain “personal benefit” from the case.
File photo of lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat. (PTI)
Srinagar: The father of an eight-year-old girl who was gang-raped and murdered in Kathua district of Jammu in January this year has moved an application in the Pathankot court, expressing lack of confidence in lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat.
He requested the court to remove her as the family’s advocate in the case. The application was moved on Wednesday, weeks after Rajawat told News18 that she was feeling “threatened” since she took up the case.
According to the victim’s father, Rajawat has only attended court on two occasions despite day-to-day proceedings in the case.
“Since Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat, who has appeared only two to three times in the case though the case has been proceeding day to day as per the order of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India for the last five months at Pathankot, had shown that she has threat to her life, as and when she came to Pathankot. So keeping in view her apprehension and non-appearance in the case, I hereby withdraw my power of attorney issued to Deepika Rajawat and now she is not my advocate,” he said in the application.
Rajawat’s defiance in the face of backlash from within the legal fraternity for taking up the case had become synonymous with the outrage and anger that followed the brutal rape and murder wherein the child was kidnapped, sedated and raped in captivity for a week allegedly at a village temple. She was later bludgeoned to death.
In May this year, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Pathankot in Punjab after the girl’s father moved the apex court, expressing fears over the safety of the family and Rajawat.
In Pathankot, senior advocates from Punjab, Jagdishwar Kumar Chopra and SS Basra, were appointed as special public prosecutors by the Jammu and Kashmir government and assisted by two Crime Branch officers of J&K.
The role of Rajawat and a battery of lawyers was to assist them as and when needed.
Section 225 of The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 specifies that every trial conducted before the Courts of Session is to be conducted by the Public Prosecutor only, whereas while conducting trials before a Magistrate, sub-section (2) of Section 301 of the Code permits a private person to instruct the pleader to prosecute any person in court, even then the prosecution still has to be conducted by the Public Prosecutor or the Assistant Public Prosecutor and the private pleader as engaged by the private person has to act under the directions of the Public Prosecutor. Even written arguments, which are mainly submitted after the closure of evidence, are to be submitted with the permission of the court.
Hence, representing the victim’s family are the public prosecutors and not Rajawat.
“We need the other lawyers for assistance sometimes and to discuss issues pertaining to the case,” Special Public Prosecutor Jagdishwar Kumar Chopra told News18. “Rest of the work is to be done by us. Other lawyers have been attending the case whenever we need their assistance, but the said lawyer (Rajawat) attended only twice,” Chopra said.
What has been Rajawat’s Role?
The Jammu and Kashmir government had initially ordered a magisterial probe and suspended the concerned station house officer (SHO) after the horrors of the case came to light. On January 22, the state government handed over the case to J&K police’s Crime Branch following protests and walkout by the opposition in the Assembly.
In February, Rajawat, on behalf of the victim’s family, filed a writ petition in the J&K High Court, requesting it to monitor the investigation. That was the only time she actually represented the case.
In April, Crime Branch filed a chargesheet against eight men accused of the crime. The accused were supported by local Hindu groups in Jammu, including senior leaders of the BJP. Even lawyers of the Kathua Bar Association had stopped the Crime Branch from submitting the chargesheet in court.
On May 7, the Supreme Court ordered the trial to be moved to Pathankot as per the family’s request.
The case was represented by noted lawyer Indira Jaising and her team. Rajawat was one of the team members.
“I represented the case at the crucial moment,” said Rajawat
But other lawyers accuse her of using the case for her “promotion”.
“She hasn’t done anything significant in the case. There are other people who fought for the rights of the child. She just filed a writ petition. In Pathankot, she was one among more than 10 lawyers supposed to assist the special public prosecutors,” said a lawyer on condition of anonymity. “Had she been serious about the case, she would have attended proceedings in the Pathankot court. She has appeared only twice.”
The girl’s father has also accused her of trying to gain “personal benefits” from the case. “She attended the case for only two days. But she keeps telling media that she has done ‘this and that’,” he said.
The Kathua rape and murder case was widely believed to be one of the reasons for the break-up of the BJP-PDP alliance in June this year.
(The author is a Kashmir-based freelance journalist)
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