Fair trial in Kathua case a priority: Supreme Court

Source – indiatimes.com

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday said its priority was to ensure fair and speedy trial in the rape-and-murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua and examine whether the trial needed to be transferred out of the town.

Two weeks ago, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud had taken suo motu notice of lawyers allegedly trying to prevent the police from filing a chargesheet and also threats to lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat not to appear for the victim’s family.

The Bar Council of India (BCI), which had sent a five-member fact finding team to inquire into allegations of lawyers preventing filing of chargehseet and threat to Rajawat, filed a report before the bench saying the lawyer had been appearing unhindered before courts in Jammu and Kathua and that there was no evidence of the J&K HC Bar Association president threatening Rajawat.

Appearing for the J&K Bar Association, senior advocate Vikas Singh said the lawyers were protesting against the state government notification regularising encroachment of private land by tribal settlers when the incident happened. The lawyers merely raised slogans demanding a CBI probe and denied that they had prevented crime branch officials from filing the chargesheet.

The BCI fact-finding team headed by Justice Tarun Agarwala said, “The demand for a CBI inquiry by the public, members of civil society in Jammu, and by the Kathua Bar Association appears to be justifiable.”

The court did not want to get embroiled in the issue relating to lawyers’ strike and said it would rather focus on the primary issue relating to the trial in Kathua rape-cum-murder case.

It said the issues staring for adjudication were whether the trial should be transferred out of Kathua, fast tracking of the trial, granting both the accused and the victim’s family adequate legal assistance through lawyers, and, overseeing progress of trial without waiving procedural requirements.

To address these pressing issues, the bench kept the hearing on Friday. However, it said the issue relating to lawyers’ strike would be taken up on July 23.

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