SC stays Kathua trial till May 7

Reuters

Justice Indu Malhotra witnessed truculent display of lung power by three women lawyers, within an hour of becoming the seventh woman judge of the Supreme Court on Friday.

Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, along with standing counsel Shoeb Alam, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, opposed the prayer for a CBI probe and said the special investigation team of the Crime Branch was investigating the case.

Chaudhary argued her clients do not have faith in police investigation as the police were hand-in-glove with vested interests to falsely implicate the accused while the real culprits were someone else. It said the Kathua lawyers had only raised slogans asking the Crime Branch to "go back" and let the CBI conduct a probe.

M Shoeb Alam, standing counsel of J&K government opposed the transfer plea and said state had a law to punish offenders in criminal cases and it would be hard to provide security to the victim's family and prosecution witnesses if the trial was shifted outside the state. But the BCI trashed all allegations in its report.

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However, a Committee of the Bar Council of India (BCI) has found that these reports were false, and that lawyers of the Jammu Bar Association and the Kathua Bar Association did not restrict officials of the Crime Branch from submitting the chargesheet in the case to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, as was reported. An inquiry into the conduct of lawyers of Kathua and Jammu may take the limelight away from the quest for justice for the victim. Rajawat who took up the case had recently expressed apprehensions, including getting killed or raped.

The CPI (M) said the BCI delegation "has no authority to submit such a report". The report continued: "Some lawyers assembled the official residence of CJM Kathua upto 7.45 pm along with media persons but thereafter they left the place..." According to it Rajawat's allegations that she was threatened by the the J&K Bar Association president was not supported by material evidence.

The apex court has been moved by two of the accused in the case, Sanji Ram and Vishal Jangotra, who seek to have the investigation transferred to the CBI.

Alam said Jammu and Kashmir had its own penal law and if the trial was shifted to Chandigarh, then it may create several problems. "Our first and constitutional concern is to ensure fair trial", the CJI said, asserting the trial will be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir at the "slightest possibility" of lack of a fair trial.

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