After the nation-wide condemnation of lawyers of the State of Jammu and Kashmir calling a strike in defence of the accused in the matter of rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has now formed a Committee to enquire into the matter.
As per a press release issued on Sunday, the Committee will be headed by former Chief Justice of the High Court, Justice Tarun Agarwal, and will include BCI Co-Chairmen Mr. S. Prabakaran and Mr. Rameshchandra G. Shah, former Chairman of Bar Council of Uttarakhand Ms. Razia Beig, and Patna High Court Advocate, Mr. Naresh Dixit.
Directing this Committee to submit a report at the earliest, the release states, "The Committee will visit Jammu, Kathua and other places in order to find out the truth, it will contact all the concerned including Members and Office-Bearers of concerned Bar Associations and also the relatives of the victim."
The Council has further directed the Bar Associations of High Court of Jammu, Kathua Bar Association and all other Bar Association of State of Jammu to call off the strike, and resume court work from Monday. These Bar Associations have been directed to convene emergent meetings on Monday and take a decision to put an end to the strike.
The office bearers of these associations have been directed to inform the BCI about the decision taken in Monday's meetings. Moreover, these Associations have been directed to maintain peace in the area and extend complete cooperation to the visiting team on 20 April.
Evidence of gang-rape and murder found
In January this year, an eight-year-old girl belonging to Bakarwal-Gujjar community was abducted, raped and murdered in Rassana village in Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district. Her body was recovered from Rassana forest in Kathua on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area.
The available evidence suggests that she was brutally gang-raped before being murdered. According to a report in The Print, a post-mortem report indicated damage to the girl's uterus and death due to asphyxiation.
According to another report, Sanji Ram, a retired official of the revenue department is believed to have masterminded the heinous crime as a part of a broader conspiracy to create fear among the nomad 'Bakarwal' (goatherd) community in the village, so that they could be pushed out. Sanji Ram is, in fact, the custodian of the temple where the girl was allegedly held in captivity.
The Police has, so far, arrested nine accused, including Ram and his son, a police head constable, two special police officers (SPOs) and a sub-inspector of police.
To make matters worse, lawyers from the Kathua Bar Association had last week prevented members of the state police from filing a chargesheet in the matter in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate. The lawyers allegedly "took pride" in mobilizing to prevent the police team from presenting the accused before the magistrate, even physically blocking their way. On the same day, the President of the Kathua Bar Association passed a resolution to keep work under suspension until April 12, while also calling for and supporting a complete Kathua and J&K bandh on April 11.