Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah welcomed the Pathankot court’s decision convicting six people in the gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district. Six of the seven accused in the case were convicted earlier on Monday and the court sentenced three of them to life imprisonment.

“High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8 year old child was drugged, raped repeatedly [and] then bludgeoned to death,” Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti tweeted. “Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited [and] culprits get exemplary punishment.”

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also called for severe punishment for the convicts. “And to those politicians who defended the accused, vilified the victim [and] threatened the legal system no words of condemnation are enough,” he tweeted.

National Commission for Woman chairperson Rekha Sharma said she had expected capital punishment for the criminals, according to ANI. “The Jammu and Kashmir government must go for appeal in higher court.”

Earlier in the day, Sharma had welcomed the decision of the court to convict six of the seven accused. “I welcome the decision of the court and request them to give the harshest punishment and hang them to set example for others because cases against minors are increasing and it would set an example.”

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen President Asaduddin Owaisi took on the Bharatiya Janata Party, criticising its state ministers who had attended a rally organised in support of the accused in March 2018. “BJP needs to answer as to why their ministers came out in support of those accused,” PTI quoted Owaisi as saying. “Justice should be done whichever religion the accused belongs to.”

Controversial case

The case had led to a major outrage across the country last year. A number of groups were seen supporting the accused, some of whom were police officers.

The chargesheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Crime Branch on April 9 last year said the girl had been held captive in a “devasthan”, or temple, in the village, drugged, raped repeatedly, strangled to death and then bludgeoned. She was abducted on January 10 and killed four days later. Her body was found near Kathua on January 17.

Lawyers in Kathua had prevented crime branch officials from filing the chargesheet.

Later, the victim’s family petitioned the Supreme Court for the case to be transferred outside Jammu and Kashmir, to which the court agreed. The day-to-day in-camera trial began in the first week of June 2018 at the district and sessions court in Pathankot city of Punjab.