Three witnesses in the Kathua case moved the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday, alleging that the special investigation team had harassed them, reported The Tribune. The case is related to the abduction, alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in the state’s Kathua district in January.

The witnesses – Sahil Sharma, Sachin Sharma and Neeraj Sharma – are friends of one of the key accused in the case.

“The High Court has sought reply from the home secretary and all individual members of the SIT on their alleged torture and harassment for manufacturing of false evidence against the accused, Vishal Jangotra,” advocate Ankur Sharma told the Hindustan Times. “The High Court has afforded the respondents three weeks’ time.”

The witnesses have asked for an independent inquiry into the alleged harassment by the SIT looking into the case. They alleged that the state police had harassed them while recording their statement. “The interim prayer of petitioners for the appointment of a judicial magistrate to enquire the matter and submit the fact-finding report to High Court will be decided on August 29, when the matter will be listed before the court again,” said Sharma.

In their writ petition, the three asked the High Court to direct the authorities concerned to register a first information report against the SIT members. If the officers are found guilty, they may face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, said Sharma. The witnesses’ appeal comes about a month after the Supreme Court refused to order an investigation into the allegations and asked them to move the High Court instead.

Jangotra was among eight people accused by the Crime Branch of allegedly kidnapping, raping and murdering an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district in January.