Pathankot (Punjab): A senior officer of Jammu and Kashmir’s Crime Branch today assured the district and sessions court, conducting the trial in the Kathua rape and murder case, that the police would ensure the presence of prosecution witnesses during the hearing, lawyers said.

The court, which has started recording the statements of witnesses in the case of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district, last week expressed dismay over the absence of witnesses despite 17 summons being issued.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch, Ramesh Kumar Jalla, who headed the investigation, appeared in the court soon after the day’s in-camera proceedings started and assured Judge Tajwinder Singh that the police would ensure the presence of witnesses from here on.

The court had issued directions for the SSP’s personal appearance.

The officer assured the court that all the witnesses would depose in the court and record their statements on time in future, defence lawyer Aseem Sawhney told reporters when the court broke for lunch.

“Because it is an in-camera trial, we will not be able to disclose anything and are restricting ourselves. What we can say only is that the witnesses have appeared and the proceedings are going on,” Sawhney, flanked by other members of his team, said.

Last week, the court, which is hearing the case on directions of the Supreme Court, had framed charges of rape and murder against seven of the eight accused, paving the way for the beginning of the trial against them.

The district and sessions court has framed charges under various sections of the Ranbir Penal Code (applicable in Jammu and Kashmir). These include Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 376-D (gang rape).

The court had also framed charges for destruction of evidence and under section 328 (causing hurt by poisoning with an intent to hurt) of the RPC.

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