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The Supreme Court today transferred the trial of the Kathua rape and murder case outside of Jammu & Kashmir to the district and sessions court of Pathankot, Punjab.
The order was passed today by a Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra in the petition filed by the father of the victim seeking the transfer of the trial outside Kathua.
While considering the question of transfer of the case to ensure a free and fair trial, the Court observed,
“Needless to say, a fair trial is a sacrosanct principle under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and a ‘fair trial’ means fair to the accused persons, as well as to the victims of the crime.”
The Court held that a free and fair trial commands that the witnesses depose without any fear and the victims as well as accused may feel safe.
The Court has also ordered for an in-camera trial to be held on a day-to-day basis without adjournment stating that a fair trial demands speedy trial and said,
“[S]peedy trial meets its purpose when the trials are held without the grant of adjournment.”
While directing the order of this case to Pathankot, the Supreme Court also specified that while the District and Sessions Judge of Kathua must transfer all the material related to this case to the District and Sessions Court of Pathankot, the Pathankot Courts must proceed in this case according to the Ranbir Penal Code.
The Court also ordered for the statements recorded in Urdu to be translated in English for the benefit of the Pathankot Court. The State of J&K is also directed to provide interpreters to make sure that depositions made thereafter can be recorded and translated properly.
The state of Jammu & Kashmir has been ordered to facilitate transport and other facilities for the accused and the witnesses at Pathankot. The Court categorically stated that the juvenile accused be treated in accordance with the law and is given all the special care and protection as prescribed.
The order also says that and the accused persons shall be treated at par with the witnesses and victims and shall not be made to feel that they are presumed to be guilty stating that,
“[I]t is the settled principle that they are innocent till they are found guilty”
The state has also been given the liberty to appoint a Special Public Prosecutor for the trial at Pathankot. The trial is ordered to be held in-camera so that the witnesses feel protected and the accused feel safe, the Court said.
The Supreme Court will monitor the trial and has barred any other Court from entertaining any plea in this matter now. The matter will now be heard on July 9.