NEMESIS seems to have caught up with six of the seven accused in the rape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl in J&K’s Kathua, who have been convicted and sentenced by a court in Pathankot. The girl was kidnapped on January 10, 2018, drugged, raped in captivity and later murdered. The court has found three of the accused guilty of murder, gang-rape and criminal conspiracy while three others — including a sub-inspector, head constable and special police officer — have been convicted for the destruction of evidence. It is a travesty of justice that those who should have been preventing it were themselves involved in the crime. The seventh accused in the case has been let off on the ground that he was present in another state at the time of the crime.
The heinous nature of the crime aside, the incident served to point to the perceived hiatus between the Valley and Jammu. The charge sheet in the case said the crime was part of a carefully planned strategy to dislodge the minority nomadic Bakherwal community from Kathua. Also, the Supreme Court had to order the shifting of the case out of J&K after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a charge sheet in the case. It was only then that the trial in the case began in Pathankot, in neighbouring Punjab, 30 km from Kathua, on a day-to-day basis in the first week of June last year. The involvement of two ministers in protests organised by a fringe group against the arrests of the accused also sparked an outrage and embarrassed the coalition government the BJP had formed with the PDP.
The verdict, coming days after incidents of crime against minors were reported from towns like Aligarh and Bhopal, replenishes hope in our criminal justice system while pointing to the need to take effective steps to deter such crime. Justice delivered is the greatest salve for injured minds and bodies.