Kathua Rape Case: Temple Priest Among 3 Sentenced to Life in Jail; 3 Others Handed 5-Year Imprisonment
While the prosecution said it will appeal against the order and push for capital punishment, defence counsels have decided to appeal against the convictions.
New Delhi: A special court in Pathankot on Monday awarded life imprisonment to three main convicts for raping and murdering an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua last year. The sentencing came hours after six of the seven accused on trial were convicted under multiple provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code, which applies in J&K.
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.
"Our observation is that the three main accused have been sentenced to prison till their death. The court was asked whether the prison sentences would run concurrently, the Honourable Judge said that the definition of life imprisonment as it was defined would apply in this case," JK Chopra, the public prosecutor in the case, said while briefing the media outside court number 1 where the hearing took place.
Sanji Ram, the chief priest of the temple where the crime took place, Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar, who is said to be a friend of Ram’s nephew (who himself is an accused in the case and claims to be a juvenile), were convicted under RPC sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gang rape, destruction of evidence and drugging the victim, the lawyers said.
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 court pronounced the much-awaited verdict away from the gaze of media which gathered outside the premises.
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.
The apex court order came after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a chargesheet in the sensational case.
The Crime Branch held Ram, his juvenile nephew and his son Vishal, and two SPOs Khajuria and Verma. Raj and Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, were also arrested.
The charges of rape and murder were framed by the district and sessions judge against seven of the eight accused.
The court framed charges under relevant sections of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), including Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang-rape), according to the prosecution.
The court also framed charges of destruction of evidence and causing hurt by poisoning under Section 328 of the RPC.
All the accused, barring the juvenile, were shifted to the Gurdaspur jail in Punjab following an intervention by the Supreme Court which also restricted appearance of the defence lawyers and limited it to one or maximum of two per accused.
The chargesheet said the girl had gone missing while grazing horses.
Investigators said the accused juvenile had abducted the girl on the pretext of helping her find her horses.
The abduction, rape and killing of the child was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the chargesheet said.
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