‘Record wit­nesses’ ac­count be­fore kin’

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - REGION - HT Cor­re­spon­dent

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.

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