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Kathua gang-rape & murder: SC stays JJB proceeding against juvenile

Kathua gang-rape & murder: SC stays JJB proceeding against juvenile

New Delhi: In a major development in gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed the proceedings before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) against a "minor" allegedly involved in the case.

The order by a bench headed by Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and V. Ramasubramanian came as the Jammu and Kashmir administration contended before it that the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had made an error by affirming the order of the trial court, which upheld the accused as a juvenile at the commission of the offence in 2018. Last year, the JJB framed charges against the "minor" and continued the examination of prosecution witnesses.

Senior advocate P.S. Patwalia, representing Jammu and Kashmir, argued that the High Court on October 11, 2019 erroneously agreed with trial court decision delivered in March 2018, which did not take on record the date of birth of the accused in the municipal and school records were not similar.

He told the court the accused is one of the main conspirators of the entire horrific offence.

Patwalia also argued that the apex court had issued a notice last month to the accused following the appeal of the administration but the JJB continued its proceeding treating the accused as a juvenile.

After hearing the arguments, the court said the proceedings before the JJB shall remain stayed. The court has listed the matter on March 16 for further hearing.

Patwalia argued that the opinion of the medical board gains significance in the backdrop of contradictory records. He cited the board, constituted based on High Court order, opined the accused was aged between 19 to 23 years during the commission of the offence.

The top court on May 7, 2018 transferred the trial of the case from Kathua in Jammu to Pathankot in Punjab and ordered for day-to-day trial. Last year in June, the special court sentenced the accused to life imprisonment.

Sanji Ram, the 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 -- during the year-long in-camera trial in the court were sentenced to life.

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