Kathua case: 14-year-old application from father may haunt juvenile son
An application filed by a father 14 years ago to register the birth of his three children is the centrepiece of the Jammu and Kashmir Police's plea that the juvenile accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua be tried as an adult and not a minor.
The Crime Branch of the state police, which has contested the trial court's decision to treat the 'juvenile' as a minor has annexed the application in its petition before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, officials said.
The application is riddled with careless mistakes and raised doubts about its veracity, they said.
The report of a medical board of experts, which determines the age of the juvenile, one of the eight accused in the case, as not less than 19 and not more than 23, has also been attached.
The court will hear the matter on June 6.
According to the petition, the application filed by the father in the tehsildar's office in Hiranagar in Jammu province on April 15, 2004, makes for "interesting" reading and has "imaginary" entries.
The father has asked for a birth certificate for his eldest, a boy, whose date of birth is stated as November 23, 1997, his daughter, said to be born on February 21, 1998, and the youngest, the Kathua accused, on October 23, 2002, it says.
A "perusal" of the date of birth of the two elder children reveals a difference of two months and 28 days, "which by any medical standard is impossible", it states.
This, it says, indicates a casual approach adopted by the father in furnishing the particulars of the dates of birth.
While no place of birth has been mentioned for the older two, the juvenile is said to be born in a Hiranagar hospital. But a subsequent investigation to test out the veracity of that statement did not bear that out, officials said.
A special investigation team sent a questionnaire to the block medical officer of Hiranagar and asked for records of the juvenile's birth along with the particulars of the parents.
However, the block medical officer categorically stated after verifying the records in the hospital that no delivery in the name of the juvenile's mother had taken place on October 23, 2002, the affidavit says.
All the documents have been attached with the petition.
"...in fact these entries were imaginary, and without any supporting birth record of either Municipal Committee or Primary Health Centre where the birth of the respondent (juvenile) is stated to have taken place," reads the affidavit submitted by the police.
The affidavit also has findings of the medical board which was constituted after the Crime Branch found inconsistencies in the age of the juvenile, who remains unnamed because of his minor status and whose case is being heard by the Juvenile Board in Kathua.
The other seven accused are being tried in a court in Pathankot, Punjab, following a Supreme Court order shifting the hearing.
According to the chargesheet in the case filed by the Crime Branch, the juvenile was instrumental in the abduction, gang-rape and killing of the child, who was smothered to death in captivity, in January this year.
The medical board, comprising specialists from different departments, including a physiologist, dental examiner, radiologist and forensic experts, submitted a report based on various clinical tests and the physical appearance of the juvenile that he was not less than 19 and not more than 23.
The affidavit says the case had attracted the attention of public at large at the national and international levels in view of the age of the victim.
"A casual and cavalier approach in determining the age of juvenile involved in such a case would not meet the ends of justice.
"....the placement of reliance by the court below only on the shaky municipal birth record was unwarranted in law and approach adopted was not commendable. The impugned order has caused serious miscarriage of justice," it says, while asking that the trial court order treating him as a juvenile be set aside.
Not doing so would be a "travesty of justice", it says, "where it is established from initial to the subsequent investigations that the respondent has played a leading role in the kidnapping, gang rape and murder of the victim".