NEW DELHI: Two prime accused in the sensational Kathua gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court opposing the plea of the victim's father seeking transfer of trial outside the state, preferably to Chandigarh.
Sanji Ram and Vishal Jangotra, who were chargesheeted by the crime branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police in the case, have also sought transfer of the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation besides seeking to be impleaded as parties in the petition filed by the father of the victim.
The two have claimed innocence in the apex court and said they were compelled to file the interlocutory application for impleadment because they were "falsely implicated and arrayed as accused persons in the case".
"It is humbly stated that the applicants are necessary and proper parties as their rights and interest are bound to be affected by the outcome of the writ petition," they said.
The accused said in their plea that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees fair investigation as well as trial to the accused and it is absolutely necessary for preservation of fundamental right.
"Therefore, investigation must be fair, transparent and judicious as it is the minimum requirement of rule of law. The investigating agency cannot be permitted to conduct an investigation in a tainted and biased manner," the plea said.
With regard to the transfer of the case, it said the convenience of the complainant cannot be the sole consideration for transferring a criminal case out of state.
"Courts have to consider the convenience of the accused, prosecution witness and larger interest of the society. That the trial in the charge sheet has commenced at Kathua and there is no apprehension on behalf of the complainant for any threat or coercion of prosecution witnesses," it said.
The accused said their rights and interest are bound to be affected by the outcome of the writ petition filed by father of the victim and therefore they should be granted an opportunity to be heard in the matter.
Recently, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had ordered the state police to grant security to the family of the victim, their friend and their lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat.
The top court had also said it would later decide on the prayer for transfer of case out of Kathua in Jammu after the state government filed its reply.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir government told the apex court that protest and obstruction forced the police to file the chargesheet in Kathua gangrape and murder case at the residence of the magistrate, a charge denied by two lawyers' bodies which claimed that an administrative decision was taken by the crime branch.
"The other officers accompanying the team were heckled and prevented from even reaching the court of the CJM," the state government said, adding that sloganeering even continued inside the chamber of the judge by the lawyers who had barged into the room.
"Thereafter attempts were made to humiliate and threaten the officers to leave the court premises and prevent the filing of the charge sheet and its acceptance," it said.
In their affidavit, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Jammu, told the apex court that justice shall be done to the victim only after a fair and impartial probe by the CBI.
It said a "motivated and malicious campaign" by some media channels had created an "erroneous impression" about the motives of the Bandh call in Jammu by projecting the legal fraternity, as also the people supporting the bandh, as pro-rapists which was "factually incorrect and misleading and denied."
With regard to the allegation of obstruction or threatening lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat, who represented the family of the victim, the association said "it is totally false and baseless and the same is vehemently/specifically denied". It also said that its members have resumed work.
In its reply, Kathua Bar Association also denied allegations that its members had obstructed Rajawat from appearing in the case on behalf of the victim's family.
It said that crime branch had taken an administrative decision in its own wisdom to produce the accused in the case at the residence of Chief Judicial Magistrate in the wake of "a volatile situation" prevailing at that time.
On April 13, the apex court had taken a serious note of lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the case and had initiated a case on its own accord saying such impeding of the process of law "affects the delivery of justice".
The minor girl had disappeared from near her home in the forests next to Rasana village in Kathua, on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.