The tragic rape and murder of a child in Kathua, Jammu province, has become a political cause célèbre thanks to the Lutyens glitterati, who moved at lightning speed to extract support from the United Nations, a body that possibly still craves to gift the State to Pakistan under the discredited Dixon and other formulae.
This would probably be the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir after 1947 that the Chief Minister is being asked to approve and endorse, not an extension of some Central law to the State, but a surrender of State power to a court of law outside its territory.
It is poetic justice, therefore, that the hyperventilating hordes have created a poignant politico-legal crisis for Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in their haste to get the high profile case transferred to Chandigarh on the spurious plea that the Kathua district sessions court will not do justice to the case. The aspersion is utterly unwarranted but follows the script perfected after the Gujarat riots, when well-connected Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO)s descended on the Supreme Court and moved the trials to Mumbai. It’s yesterday once more.
Except that this is Jammu and Kashmir, a State distanced from India due to the ill-conceived Article 370 (Pandit Nehru, when will we be free from your cursed legacy?), a ‘temporary’ clause so magnetic that some judges of the apex court desire to make it a permanent feature of the Constitution.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, however, will have to make a political decision to permit the Supreme Court to transfer the trial outside the State. It is a critical test for her at a time of plunging popularity and growing dissensions within her People’s Democratic Party. For over two years, Mufti was unable to hold by-elections in her family seat of Anantnag and finally brought her brother into the Assembly via the Legislative Council. A political non-entity, he is more an emotional prop than a support.
When the Supreme Court takes up the transfer petition, it will issue a notice to the State and Central Governments for their views. The Centre may not object to the transfer per se, but it could ask the Court to choose an alternative other than that preferred by lawyers who have inveigled themselves into the case. As is well-known, the State prosecutes murder cases, and the J&K administration is eager to handle this case.
It must have taken some masterful management for persons from the Lawyers Collective, an NGO, to get themselves anointed as private lawyers for the victim’s parents. It is these lawyers who are seeking transfer of the case outside the State; they should not be allowed to select the forum of their choice.
Things are more complex for Mehbooba Mufti. This would probably be the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir after 1947 that the Chief Minister is being asked to approve and endorse, not an extension of some Central law to the State, but a surrender of State power to a court of law outside its territory. The Chief Justice of the State to which the Supreme Court transfers the case will decide which trial court judge shall hear the case, and that judge will determine the course of the trial. His judgment will be momentous.
Mehbooba Mufti will have to tell the court that her administration is unable to ensure a free and fair trial inside Jammu and Kashmir. This would be a delicious self-indictment.
If the Supreme Court decides to shift the trial elsewhere in view of heightened emotions within the State, it will be tantamount to a major erosion of the State’s powers, with likely positive consequences in the future. A trial outside Jammu and Kashmir would benefit the accused who have been subjected to such a high decibel vilification campaign by our well-heeled urban elite that the voice of reason is in danger of being choked, and administrative malpractice may be difficult to expose.
A dispassionate environment could do wonders for the accused. As it is, in Kathua on April 16, 2018, the judge lambasted the State Crime Branch for filing an incomplete challan (charge-sheet). As the murder happened in January, and successive investigations (in which investigators changed at Srinagar’s whims) were conducted over three months, and an elaborate conspiracy to rape and murder was constructed and circulated to all media and social media, there was no excuse for an incomplete challan.
The Kathua murder case (it has yet to be legally established that the child was raped), is also a chilling reminder of the judge B. H. Loya case.
The learned judge also berated the Crime Branch for not giving copies of the charge-sheet to the accused. All accused asked to be subjected to a Narco-test, which, prima facie, is evidence of innocence. The accused have only one demand – that the Central Bureau of Investigation should probe the case. A related issue is Jammu’s opposition to the well-funded and fraudulent manner in which illegal Rohingya infiltrators are being pushed into Hindu regions, to trigger the flight of Hindus.
The Kathua murder case (it has yet to be legally established that the child was raped), is also a chilling reminder of the judge B. H. Loya case. The judge died in December 2014, but it was only in 2016 that some persons decided to ‘investigate’ his death; in 2017 they alleged it was murder.
The rapid internationalisation of the case further reveals the reach of the conspirators. The UN Secretary General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric (April 14) asked New Delhi to ensure that the perpetrators of the “horrific” Kathua rape and murder case are brought to justice.
This is simply amazing. Europe is being swamped with illegal immigrants who are raping women and girls with unsettling impunity, yet the UN Secretary-General has not seen fit to address the issue. Yet his office has the temerity to pontificate about a tragedy that is being visibly exploited by vested interests with an eye on the crucial elections in Karnataka. Any honest investigation will prove that this is a crime of perversion, a painful statistic in a genre of crime that has become a national epidemic.
Mehbooba Mufti, who closely monitored the case and knew about the changing of investigators to get a certain kind of verdict, is now caught between the devil and the deep sea. She has raised a storm, and it is threatening to suck her out of the safety of the harbour.
She has to ensure that the case presented in court can hold water, and survive dilution of State sovereignty if the case is transferred outside Jammu and Kashmir. The ball is now in the court of the Supreme Court; if it has decided to transfer the case, it will not take kindly to the State Government’s resistance.