‘Record witnesses’ account before kin’
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Jammu and Kashmir police to record statements of three witnesses in the Kathua gangrape and murder case in presence of their family members.
A bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra gave the partial relief to the witnesses, who are classmates of one of the accused in the case, brushing aside the stiff opposition by the J&K government counsels.
The directive came after the witnesses moved the court seeking protection after they were summoned again by the police after it got “fresh evidence” in the case involving the alleged rape and murder of a minor in Kathua in January.
The witnesses alleged harassment and torture at the hands of J&K police and wanted permission to let their lawyers be with them at the time of questioning.
The court said the witnesses would be accompanied by a relative when called by the police and shall remain at a visible distance. The bench also slammed the J&K counsel for even opposing a relative’s presence during the questioning.
“Do you want to interrogate them or record their statement? Is there no distinction between interrogation and recording of statement? the bench asked senior advocate PS Patwalia and counsel Shoeb Alam appearing for the J&K government.
Patwalia and Alam said an order in favour of the witnesses, at this juncture, would embolden them.the duo said the witnesses levelled the allegations for the first time and never had such a grievance when they recorded their statements earlier before a magistrate.
“The forensic report has nailed their lie. They are apprehensive that they will be exposed. This (application for protection) is an effort to deflect the investigation,” Patwalia said, adding that police investigation was on in the case. CJI Misra told Patwalia the court was not concerned about the investigation.
“We have protected the right of the victims and transferred the case. We did not change the investigating agency. They (witnesses) are young boys. There should be no problem if they want to go with their relatives,” the CJI said.
The apex court on May 7 transferred the case to Pathankot Court and also ruled that the matter does not warrant a CBI inquiry.
“This (relatives accompanying) would hamper the investigation. Nobody will be murdered (while recording the statement),” Patwalia said. Senior advocate Arvind Datar appearing for the petitioners said they were coerced to give a statement contrary to the fact that the accused was with them for the examination in Uttar Pradesh.