Supreme Court to hear plea of 3 witnesses of Kathua case

Three college friends of a key accused in the sensational Kathua gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl today moved the Supreme Court alleging torture by the Jammu and Kashmir police and seeking protection from a central agency.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud agreed to hear the plea of these students, who hail from the Jammu region of the state, on May 16.

Lawyer Ravi Sharma, representing students Sahil Sharma, Sachin Sharma and Neeraj Sharma, sought urgent hearing on the plea alleging that they and their families were being coerced by the Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir police.

The Jammu-based students, who are pursuing B.Sc in Agriculture at a college in Muzzafar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, are classmates of Vishal Jangotra, a key accused in the case, the plea said.

The lawyer said the students were “coerced to make statements contrary to the facts that Vishal Jangotra was with them at Muzzafarnagar from January 7 to February 10. During that period, he along with petitioners attended examinations and practical papers.”

“Petitioners were subjected to the physical and mental torture from March 19 to March 31 by Respondents (state police officers),” the plea said.

The lawyer alleged that the students were constrained to move the apex court seeking security as they faced “imminent threat to their lives at the hand of the Crime Branch.”

Besides seeking security by a central agency, the students alleged that despite recording their statements, they were being served with police notice to re-appear for re-recording of their statements.

“Permit the petitioners to be accompanied at all times by two lawyers as and when they are summoned” by the state police, the plea said, adding that the probe in the case be handed over to an “independent agency”.

The plea has sought a direction to restrain the Crime Branch officials from “harming” and “harassing” the students and their families. It also seeks Rs 50 lakh each as compensation to the three students for the “physical and mental agony and loss of study and future prospects”.

Earlier, the apex court had transferred the trial in the sensational Kathua gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab, but had refrained from handing over the probe to CBI saying there was no need as the investigation has been conducted and the charge sheet filed.

The apex court, which ordered day-to-day “in-camera” trial in the case, had said there was a need to shift the trial outside the state as “fear and fair trial” were contradictory and “cannot be allowed to co-exist.”

The victim, belonging to a minority nomadic community, had disappeared from near her home in a village close to Kathua in the Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.

The state police has filed the main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district.

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