The family of the eight-year-old Kathua rape victim has been waiting impatiently for the start of the trial against Shubam Sangra for more than four years. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Sangra, a pivotal defendant in the shocking gangrape and murder of the girl, was not a juvenile at the time of the offence. It mandated his adult trial.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has criticised the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the Allahabad High Court for their ‘casual and cavalier’ approach while determining the accused was a juvenile when the crime was committed. Even though there was a ‘clear and unambiguous case’ in favour of the accused person’s juvenility on the basis of his birth certificate and school records, he cannot take shelter under such documents when a heinous crime has been committed,’ according to a bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and J B Pardiwala.
The girl was kidnapped on January 10, 2018 and was raped in captivity in a small village temple after being kept sedated for four days. She was later bludgeoned to death. A day-to-day hearing was ordered after some lawyers in Kathua had prevented the Crime Branch officials from filing a charge sheet.
Three-member bench of Supreme Court headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra had ordered shifting of the trial from Kathua to Pathankot. It also made it clear that no court would entertain any petition relating to the case. The bench, which comprised Justice D Y Chandrachud, now the Chief Justice of India, and Justice Indu Malhotra, had ordered daily in-camera hearings.
A special court has sentenced three men to life imprisonment till their last breath for the ghastly crime that shook the nation. Sanji Ram, the mastermind and caretaker of the ‘devasthanam’ (temple), where the crime took place in January 2018. Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Officer, and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian – the three main accused were spared the death penalty.
Sangra is likely to be sent to a juvenile home under the custody of a magistrate while his co-accused are out on parole. The other three accused – Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma – were convicted for destroying evidence. The trial court had acquitted the seventh accused Vishal Jangotra, son of Sanji Ram, giving him the benefit of doubt.