The judgment on the fate of six convicted in the gang-rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl in Kathua begins with a Ghalib couplet borrowed from Supreme Court judgment of Budhadev Karmaskar which was penned by former SC judge Markandey Katju.
"Pinha tha daam-e-sakht qareeb aashiyan ke
Udhne na paaye the ki giraftaar hum hue ”
The judge, Tejwinder Singh, begins his judgment by saying that this couplet applies 'squarely to the facts of the present case which literally means that near the nest of a bird there was a hard net (placed by hunter) and the young chick was caught in it before it could take its first flight.'
Given the circumstances, the 'Sword of Damocles' was hanging over the head of the accused, the judge further adds, 'the perpetrators of this crime have acted in such a manner as if there is a 'law of the jungle' prevalent in the society.'
Among the evidences that the court relies on is a strand of the eight-year-old's hair that was recovered from the temple, whose chief priest Sanji Ram was convicted and awarded life sentence. It rubbishes the defence's claim that the girl could not have been confined in the temple and raped given that Lohri was being celebrated there, as the defence did not find any evidence to support their claim.
The court says it was proven categorically that Deepak Khajuria, Pravesh Kumar and Sanji Ram (along with Sanji Ram's nephew who has claimed to be a juvenile and whose appeal is being heard separately by J&K high court) 'entered into a criminal conspiracy with each other' to kidnap, drug, rape and murder the girl and went on to commit these acts.
Sanji Ram's son Vishal Jangotra is acquitted by the court which accepts testimonies from several witnesses that establish that he was present in Meenapur, Muzaffarnagar, UP, appearing for his examinations at the time when the crime was being committed.
The three main accused — Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar — were found guilty under various sections of the RPC and were awarded the following sentences:
Section 302 (murder): Life imprisonment and penalty of Rs 1 lakh
Section 120b (criminal conspiracy): Imprisonment for life plus fine of Rs 50,000
Section 376-D (gang rape): Rigorous imprisonment for 25 years plus Rs 50,000 fine
Section 328 (causing hurt by means of feeding poison): Rigorous imprisonment for 10 years plus Rs 50,000 fine
Section 363 (kidnapping): Rigorous imprisonment for seven years and fine of Rs 50,000
Of the three, Parvesh Kumar was additionally awarded punishment under RPC section 376D/511 of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years plus Rs 25,000 fine.
Three others — Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and SPO Surender Verma — who were convicted for destruction of evidence under Section 201 of the RPC, were handed sentences of five-year rigorous imprisonment plus a fine of Rs 50,000 each. Ram's son Vishal Jangotra was acquitted in the case.
Both the prosecution and the defence counsels have decided to appeal against the order. While prosecution is going to plead for capital sentence and against the acquittal of Sanji Ram's son, defence lawyers said they're going to plead against the convictions.
The crime branch of J&K Police had filed the chargesheet against eight persons, including a juvenile. The trial against the juvenile is yet to begin as his petition on determining his age is to be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
According to the 15-page chargesheet filed in April last year, the girl was kidnapped on January 10 that year and was raped in captivity in a small village temple, exclusively manned by Ram, after having been kept sedated for four days. She was later bludgeoned to death.
The day-to-day trial commenced in the first week of June last year at the district and sessions court in Pathankot in the neighbouring state of Punjab, about 100 km from Jammu and 30 km from Kathua, after the Supreme Court ordered on May 7, 2018 that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir.