A court in Pathankot has after conviction has sentenced three men including a temple caretaker to life imprisonment till last breath for the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir shortly after convicting them along with three others for the ghastly crime that shook the nation 17 months ago.
Sanji Ram, the mastermind and caretaker of the ‘devasthanam’ (temple) where the crime took place in January last year, Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Officer, and Parvesh Kumar, a civilian–the three main accused–were spared death penalty, a punishment sought by the prosecution during the year-long in-camera trial in the court of judge Tejwinder Singh .
“The perpetrators of this crime have acted in such a manner as if there is a ‘law of jungle’ prevalent in the society,” the judge said, adding the facts in the case are many but truth is one that under a criminal conspiracy, an innocent eight-year old minor girl has been kidnapped, wrongfully confined, drugged, raped and ultimately murdered.
The three who were given life term were convicted under Ranbir Penal Code(RPC) sections relating to criminal conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, gang rape, destruction of evidence, drugging the victim and common intention, prosecution lawyer Santokh Singh told reporters outside the court.
They were also awarded different jail terms for various offences under the RPC which will run concurrently with the life term besides a fine of Rs one lakh each, Singh said. If they do not deposit the fine, they will have to serve additional six months in jail, he added.
Singh said a life term for the three convicts means they will be in jail till the end of their natural life.
The other three accused–Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj and special police officer Surender Verma — were convicted for destruction of evidence to cover up the crime and handed down five years in jail and Rs 50,000 fine each, Singh said.
The court acquitted the seventh accused Vishal Jangotra, son of Sanji Ram, giving him the ‘benefit of doubt’, according to Mubeen Farooqi, who represented the victim’s family in the court.