Conflict

Following family’s request, Kathua rape-murder victim’s lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat removed from case

Srinagar: Father of the eight-year-old girl belonging to the nomadic Gujjar Bakarwal community who was gangraped and murdered in Kathua district of Jammu in January of this year stated his lack of confidence in lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat and  moved an application in the Pathankot court on Wednesday to remove her as the family’s advocate from the case, ThePrint reported.

Judge Tejwinder Singh granted the request.

The Kathua case took international interest after eight men were charged in April and supported by local Hindu groups in Jammu, including senior leaders of the BJP. Lawyers of the Kathua Bar Association had reportedly even tried to prevent the police from submitting the chargesheet in the court.

The father said he wanted to withdraw Rajawat’s power of attorney because of her “apprehension and non-appearance” in the case, The Tribune reported.

“More than 110 hearings in the case have taken place and more than 100 witnesses have been examined,” his counsel Mubeen Farooqi told The Print. “But Rajawat has appeared in the case only twice. She has been claiming that she is receiving life threats because she has to appear in the case. It was decided that it is best to relieve her of this responsibility.”

The two special public prosecutors “were doing an effective job” in the case, Farooqi added.

Rajawat, who had moved the Supreme Court of India to get the case shifted from Kathua to Pathankot, said she was surprised by the family’s move. “I never charged [a] single rupee from the complainant and all I wanted was justice be served to the victim,” she told The Tribune. “I am currently overworked and have several cases in both lower courts and Jammu and Kashmir High Court.”

Rajawat told The Print that the senior prosecutors conducting the trial have “far more experience” in handling criminal cases.

“It was unfortunate that such a request was made by the victim’s father,” she said. “But I have no grudge against anyone. I did what I thought needed to be done at that crucial stage, and everyone was scared to come forward. I am standing by the family.”

The case is being heard in-camera on a day-to-day basis by the district and sessions judge since 31 May, amid tight security.

In August, Talib Hussain, who had been on the forefront of demanding justice in the Kathua rape-murder case was arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Jammu and Kashmir’s Samba district.

Talib Hussain was arrested following a complaint lodged by a woman who is his relative, a police official said. In her complaint, the woman alleged that she was raped by Hussain a month-and-a half ago in Chadwa forest, he said.

Hussain, armed with a knife, intercepted the woman when she had gone to the forest for grazing cattle and also thrashed her, the complaint said.

Earlier, in June, a case was registered against Hussain by his wife for alleged torture and dowry demand. In response he said the case was aimed at “aimed at maligning him for raising his voice to seek justice for the Kathua rape and murder victim”.

He was provided anticipatory bail by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in the case.

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