Victim’s father says family doesn’t want Deepika Rajawat to continue as she’s appeared only a few times. Lawyer says she’ll still stand by them.
Chandigarh: In a surprise move, the father of the eight-year-old girl from Kathua, who was allegedly gang raped and murdered in January this year, has expressed a lack of confidence in lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat, who had spearheaded the move to get justice for the girl.
In an application filed before the trial court in Pathankot Wednesday, the girl’s father said Rajawat won’t be representing them in the case anymore.
According to Mubeen Farooky, another lawyer appearing for the victim’s family, the application was moved by the victim’s father since Rajawat had “no time” to appear in the case — she has appeared only twice in the last several months.
“More than 110 hearings in the case have taken place and more than 100 witnesses have been examined. But Rajawat has appeared in the case only twice. She has been claiming that she is receiving life threats because she has to appear in the case. It was decided that it is best to relieve her of this responsibility,” Farooky told ThePrint.
The father’s application read: “Keeping in view her apprehension and non- appearance in this case…I hereby withdraw my power of attorney issued to Deepika Singh Rajawat and now she is not my advocate.”
‘I am standing by the family’
Rajawat, a human rights lawyer based in Jammu, had become the face of justice for the eight-year-old belonging to the nomadic Gujjar Bakarwal community, who was allegedly abducted, raped and murdered in a temple in a small village in Kathua.
Rajawat’s spirited fight for the victim in the face of staunch public protests in favour of the accused — most of whom were local Hindus — brought her international fame.
The trial in the case began in April at the Kathua district courts, but was shifted to Pathankot in Punjab after Rajawat moved the Supreme Court with a request to shift the hearing outside Jammu and Kashmir. The case is being heard in-camera on a day-to-day basis by the district and sessions judge since 31 May, amid tight security.
The state is being represented by two special public prosecutors assisted by lawyers of the Jammu crime branch, which had investigated the case.
Reached for comment by ThePrint, Rajawat said the case was being handled very well by a battery of senior lawyers. “There are two super senior prosecutors conducting the trial. They have far more experience than I have in handling criminal cases,” she told ThePrint.
“I had wanted to go to the trial at least once a week, but it is not possible for me to go to Pathankot every day — I have to take care of my daughter. If I travel to Pathankot every day, which is 200 kilometers away, I will not be able to take care of my own practice.
“It was unfortunate that such a request was made by the victim’s father. But I have no grudge against anyone. I did what I thought needed to be done at that crucial stage, and everyone was scared to come forward. I am standing by the family.”
A significant case
The Kathua gang rape-murder hit international headlines when charges were filed against eight men in April. The accused were supported by local Hindu groups in Jammu, including senior leaders of the BJP. Lawyers of the Kathua Bar Association reportedly even tried to prevent the police from submitting the chargesheet in the court.
The case also caused a deep divide within the alliance ruling J&K at the time — the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP and the BJP, with several of the latter’s leaders, including two ministers, seen at the forefront of protests in favour of the accused.
Last month, activist Talib Hussain, who had worked closely with Rajawat to seek justice for the rape victim, was accused of rape by a JNU student.
After the allegations surfaced, senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising, who was representing Hussain in a case pertaining to his alleged torture in prison, announced she wouldn’t represent him anymore.
It wasn’t the first time Hussain, a resident of Jammu and Kashmir, was being accused of raping a woman. Earlier this year, a woman residing in Samba district of Jammu had also accused him of rape, after which he was arrested. He is currently out on bail.
Hussain’s estranged wife had also filed a case against him for allegedly torturing and demanding dowry from her.