A court in Jammu on Tuesday ordered the police to file an first information report against the members of the Special Investigation Team, which investigated the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, for allegedly torturing the witnesses, PTI reported.

Judicial Magistrate Prem Sagar instructed Jammu’s senior superintendent of police to register the FIR and submit a compliance report by November 11. The order was based on a complaint by three people who alleged torture during interrogation to “provide false evidence” against one of the accused in the case, The Indian Express reported.

In their application, Sachin Sharma, Neeraj Sharma and Sahil Sharma claimed that no action was taken on their complaint lodged on September 24 with the Pacca Danga police station in Jammu.

“From the gist of the complaint cognizable offences are made out against the non-applicants herein,” the order said. “Therefore, application of the applicant under section 153 (3) CrPC is allowed with the direction to SSP Jammu to register FIR against the non-applicants under relevant provisions of law and report compliance by next date of hearing on November 11,” it said.

The SIT was headed by former Jammu and Kashmir Police officer Ramesh Kumar Jalla, Additional Superintendent of Police Crime Branch Peerzada Naveed, Deputy Superintendent Crime Branch Shwetambari Sharma. The SIT was constituted by the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government last year. The court order also covered Deputy Superintendents Nassir Hussain, Urfan Wani and Kewal Kishore.

Only Hussain is still with the Crime Branch. Jalla has retired, Peerzada is part of a United Nations mission in South Sudan, and Sharma is posted at the police headquarters in Jammu.

SSP (Jammu) Tejinder Singh said that he was yet to receive a copy of the court order. “I have heard about it only on social media so far. Let the order come, we will see,” he said.

The case

On June 10, a trial court in Pathankot had sentenced three convicts in the case – Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar – to life imprisonment. While Ram was the mastermind of the crime and the caretaker of the temple where the child was raped, Khajuria was a police officer. Special Police Officer Surender Verma, head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta were awarded five years in prison for destroying evidence.

The court acquitted the seventh accused, Vishal Jangotra, son of Sanji Ram, by giving him the “benefit of doubt”.

The eight-year-old girl from the nomadic community of Bakerwal was kidnapped from Kathua’s Rasana area on January 10 in 2018 and was found dead on January 17. According to the 15-page chargesheet, the victim was kidnapped, drugged, hit by a stone, raped and strangulated inside the temple premises by the accused.

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