Distant Trials

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Right now, when Kashmir is witnessing mass hiring of the defence lawyers in a Pathankot court to defend the accused held by State Police Crime Branch for kidnapping, gang-raping, murdering a little Bakerwal girl, another case that was being tried in Chandigarh is coming to a close. It was sleaze racket case that was transferred to Chandigarh by the Supreme Court after the accused did not find their defence in Srinagar.

Newspaper reports indicated that the trial court has held a few people responsible. These include a DIG in BSF, a DYSP in police, the boy who made the clip and the person who was the main pimp. Interestingly, the court was never interested to know why Sebeena, the principal accused in the case, was not attending the hearings. She was young, healthy and apparently lacking any problem. Her death was sudden and the burial quick. And the court avoided investigating it. This may not be the case about her husband who was slightly older than her.

This is what happens with the courts that deal cases which are far away and with which they have societal disconnect. Courts go as per the listing on the paper and the paper writers lack local inputs.

Since 2006, when the case was transferred to Chandigarh, there has been no effort by the society or the policy makers to know how the trails are going on. How the accused, the complainants are managing themselves. It is not easy for all these people to ensure their presence before the court almost on monthly basis.

One needs to give an ear to some of the girls exploited in the case. Till the investigation was over, the minor in the case was protected and living in a secured place. Once the investigation was complete and the incident moved away from the public memory, all those privileges were over. To attend the trail, she even had no funds and would, at various occasions, rely on people against whom she was supposed to depose!

This is common knowledge in Srinagar that the accused and the complainants would move together, stay in the same hotel and return.

Though all the veterans in the racket have already been absolved of all charges, quite a few have been held responsible and would go to the jail.

In March when the state government was discussing the idea of trial in the Kathua case, a general hope was that the government would consider the 2006 case before taking a call on changing the court.

Distant trials have historically, in Kashmir context, not helped the accused get justice. They have somehow managed to win over the situation the prosecution lands them.

These trials are far away from the spot of crisis so these do not retain general interest.

The problem in Jammu and Kashmir context is peculiar. While we investigate cases in the state, we are able to arrest the accused, identify the entire chain of crime. But eventually we somehow fail to get a court within the state where the trial would take place. Is it so difficult?

If the lawyers in Srinagar were not willing to defend the accused in 2006 cases, what was the harm in getting the best defence lawyers from outside? Why a state government that has 600 thousand people on its rolls and Rs 80,000 crore yearly budget of expenditure, cannot secure a court room?

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