Trial on Kathua gang-rape murder begins' accused plead not guilty

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The trial in the Kathua abduction, rape and murder case began on Monday. Relatives of the victim present outside the Kathua court accused the media of ignoring extensive reportage of this heinous crime for almost three months. The judge A.S. Langeh postponed the hearing in the matter for April 28. "If there was an issue with the investigation agency, we could consider transferring the case, but that is not the case here", CJI Misra said.

The minor girl, aged about eight years, was abducted, raped and murdered in the Kathua district of Jammu region in January this year. The police have booked eight accused in the matter and a juvenile who allegedly held the victim hostage in January. The apex court also took note of a plea of the victim's father seeking transfer of the trial of the case from Kathua, preferably to Chandigarh and sought response of the state government.

The accused include the custodian of the temple who is a retired government official, his son and four police officers and also a juvenile, against whom a separate charge sheet was filed by the Crime Branch of the J&K police in the court last week. The top court asked the state government to provide needed security to the family of Kathua rape victim and their lawyer.

The court said that the security so provided would be in plainclothes. Appearing for the victim's father, she told the Supreme Court, "The atmosphere is not conducive to a fair trial". She added that she had been called anti-Hindu and boycotted socially. The two had taken her to a temple later and repeatedly raped the girl.

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Mir was posted in Bihar's Danapur. "Details are being ascertained", Defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia told the daily. He had arrived at his native village on April 12 and had been missing since Saturday night, police officials said.

She referred to the affidavits of the local lawyer and the family friend to highlight the threats being faced by them in pursuing the case at the local court and cited an incident when policemen had to face protests while filing the charge sheet before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua.

Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the "devisthan" in a village in Kathua, about 90 km from Jammu, is listed as the main conspirator behind the crime.

However, in a fast development, during the medical examination of the victim, it was found that she was not a minor when the rape took place in June, 2017.