The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the proceedings before the Juvenile Justice Board in the Kathua rape and murder case, after the Jammu and Kashmir government claimed that the Union Territory’s High Court had erroneously affirmed the order of a trial court holding the main accused to be a minor, PTI reported.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Ajay Rastogi and V Ramasubramanian said it had heard senior advocate PS Patwalia, appearing for the petitioners, and would order a stay on the proceedings. The bench said the matter will be heard next on March 16.

Patwalia, appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, said that the High Court had on October 11, 2019, wrongly affirmed the trial court order of March 27, 2018, without appreciating that the date of birth recorded in the municipal and school records are contradictory to each other. Patwalia added that despite the Supreme Court’s notice to the accused on January 6, the Juvenile Justice Board has continued hearing the case, treating him as a minor at the time of the incident.

Patwalia alleged that the accused is one of the main conspirators in the crime and had abducted, gangraped and murdered the eight-year-old girl. The lawyer added that the medical board that the High Court had constituted had opined that the accused was between 19 and 23 years of age at the time of the incident.

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, 2018, and was found dead on January 17 that year. 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.