Punjab & Haryana HC agrees to hear Kathua convict's appeal

Punjab & Haryana HC agrees to hear Kathua convict's appeal

THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court on Tuesday admitted the appeal of Tilak Raj, a former police officer and convict in the Kathua gangrape and murder case, for further hearing and stayed the recovery of the fine during pendency of the appeal.

Raj was sentenced to five years in prison by the Pathankot Sessions Court on June 10 for destruction of crucial evidence in the case. The court had also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the convict.

His counsel Sanjeev Patyal Tuesday argued before the court of Justice Rajbir Sehrawat that he has been “falsely implicated and wrongly convicted” under Section 201 of the Ranbir Penal Code.

“The prosecution story is highly improbable and is a cock and bull story.The learned trial court has committed grave legal error by convicting and sentencing the appellant,” read the appeal, adding the conviction is “based on mere conjecture and surmises”.

Submitting that there is only oral evidence against Raj, his counsel said the trial court failed to take into consideration the defence plea that no recovery was effected from him. “The findings of the learned trial court are based upon assumptions and presumptions and in the absence of any factual foundation proved on record as it is evident that the prosecution has failed to bring home the guilt against the present appellant,” the appeal stated.

Raj’s petition is the first against the conviction to be filed and admitted in the High Court. Another convicted police officer, Anand Dutta, has also filed an appeal against his conviction but it is yet to come up for hearing.

While the trial court in its verdict had said that there is no evidence on record to prove that Raj was part of the larger criminal conspiracy for committing the offences of kidnapping, wrongful confining, drugging and raping the minor, it ruled that the only evidence on record is of him trying to destroy evidence and misdirect the investigation.

In the case, an eight-year-old girl belonging to the Bakerwal community was raped and murdered in January 2018 as part of a conspiracy to “dislodge” the nomadic community from Rasana village of Kathua district in Jammu and Kashmir