A court in Jammu and Kashmir has directed to file FIR against six members of the Special Investigation Team that is investigating the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, Asifa in 2018 in Kathua district.
Six of the team members are accused of torturing and coercing witnesses to give false statements. The order is based on a complaint from three persons alleging torture during interrogation to “provide false evidence” against one of the accused, Vishal Jangotra, who was later acquitted in the case.
The judicial magistrate responded to a petition from the witnesses, Sachin Sharma, Neeraj Sharma, and Sahil Sharma. All three are residents of kathua and Samba districts.
The order is based on a complaint from three persons alleging torture during interrogation to “provide false evidence” against one of the accused, Vishal Jangotra, who was later acquitted in the case.
The SIT was constituted by the then PDP-BJP government headed by Mehbooba Mufti. In Kathua’s gang rape and murder case, an 8-year-old girl named Asifa went missing from her village. She belonged to the Muslim Bhakarwal community on 10th January 2018. She was found dead after a week. Medical reports showed evidence of gang rape and death after being crushed by a stone. Sleeping pills were also found in her system, due to which she went into a coma.
The incident had triggered nationwide outrage and split the local population along religious lines. Two BJP ministers in the state government at the time, Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Parkash Ganga, had publicly endorsed demands from family members of the accused for a CBI probe in the case. Facing a backlash, the two were made to quit the Cabinet.
The case was also shifted to Pathankot following a Supreme Court order after lawyers in Kathua prevented Crime Branch officials from filing a charge sheet.
The SIT’s investigations led to life terms in June for the three main accused: Sanji Ram, the caretaker of the prayer hall where the crime took place, Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar. Three other accused — Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma — were charged with destruction of evidence and awarded five years’ jail.
Jangotra, who is the son of Sanji Ram, was given the benefit of doubt and acquitted by the special court hearing the case. The eighth accused was declared a juvenile and tried under related provisions.
In their complaint against the SIT, Sachin Sharma, Neeraj Sharma and Sahil Sharma claimed that the investigators tortured them to depose against Jangotra. The three had first recorded their allegations during investigations in the case when they were produced before a magistrate for recording their statement.
Following Jangotra’s acquittal, they lodged their complaint with the SHO of Pacca Danga station. “On October 5, we approached SSP (Jammu) but nothing has been done in the matter so far,” said their advocate Ankur Sharma.
Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbag Singh on Wednesday said no witnesses were tortured and the court’s directive of an FIR against the investigating police officials would be followed.