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The Supreme Court Friday, April 27, ordered a 10-day stay – till May 7 – on the trial in the Kathua child gangrape and murder case.

The court will deal with the prayer of the victim’s father for shifting the trial to Chandigarh and the plea of the accused seeking handing over the probe to CBI.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra – who replaces Justice AM Khanwilkar – said it will deal with the prayer of the victim’s father for shifting of trial to Chandigarh and plea of the accused seeking handing over the probe to CBI. The next hearing on matter has been fixed for May 7.

The child from a minority nomadic community – the Bakarwal –  had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.

In a stern warning a day before, on Thursday, the apex court had said it would transfer the Kathua gangrape and murder case from the local court in Jammu and Kashmir in the “slightest possibility” of lack of fair trial, saying the “real concern” was to hold proper prosecution.

Earlier, the eight-year-old’s father had moved the apex court, apprehending threat to the family, a friend and their lawyer Deepika Rajawat.

On the other hand, the accused filed a separate plea seeking that the trial in the case be held in Jammu and the probe handed over to the CBI.

During the hearing, the court witnessed heated exchanges between senior advocate Indira Jaising, who appeared for the victim’s family, and advocate Harvinder Chaudhary, who was representing the accused.

Jaising said the case should be transferred to Chandigarh due to its proximity to Kathua and the incidents of obstruction of police personnel by lawyers of the local court, reported The Hindu. She cited as reasons the attempts to intimidate the presiding judge of the court and the heckling of crime branch officials by lawyers, as evident in the affidavit of the Jammu and Kashmir government.

Chaudhary argued her clients do not have faith in police investigation as the police were hand-in-glove with vested interests to falsely implicate the accused while the real culprits were someone else. She said the probe should be handed over to the CBI.

Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, along with standing counsel Shoeb Alam, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, opposed the prayer for a CBI probe and said the special investigation team of the Crime Branch was investigating the case. Ganai said the trial could be shifted from Kathua to some other district in the State as there were 221 witnesses and most of the statements recorded so far were in Urdu, said The Hindu report.

Alam said Jammu and Kashmir had its own penal law and if the trial was shifted to Chandigarh, then it may create several problems.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, said the government was ready to provide any assistance if required but the call has to be taken by the Jammu and Kashmir government.

The state police’s Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed the main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district last week. The chargesheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.

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