New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will shift the Kathua gang-rape and murder trial out of Jammu and Kashmir at the "slightest possibility of lack of a fair trial".
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said its "real concern" was to see that a fair trial was conducted.
The trial should be fair for the victim's family and for the accused, the bench added.
At the outset, the Bar Council of India (BCI) Committee filed in a sealed cover a report before the apex court and supported the demand of the High Court Bar Association at Jammu and Kathua District Court Bar Association for a CBI probe into the case.
The BCI also said the bar associations had neither obstructed the Crime Branch from filing the charge-sheet in the case nor the advocate representing the victim's family.
However, senior advocate P.V. Dinesh, who had brought to the notice of apex court the alleged obstruction by lawyers, objected to the BCI panel's submissions, saying it was only tasked with the job of finding out whether the local lawyers had obstructed the trial proceedings and instead the panel seemed to have formed opinions on the investigation by the state Crime Branch.
But the apex court said its primary concern at this point is to provide fair trial in the case and did not want to divert its attention from this aspect.
"Let the main issue be not missed. Fair investigation, fair trial, appropriate legal guidance and representation of both the accused and the victim's family has to be there," the bench said.
"Let us not get into what the Bar Council of India says... If we do, the victim goes away from our attention. Let us not digress from the real issue. The real issue is that how can we achieve justice," it added.
"Our first concern and our constitutional concern is to ensure fair trial and procedure to provide protection to the victim's lawyer so there is no obstruction to justice and finally to transfer the case, if found necessary," the bench observed.
Considering the issues of lawyers' alleged obstruction, the apex court said if the lawyers are at fault, they would be dealt in accordance with the law, and posted the matter for July 30.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the victim's father, urged the court to monitor the trial. The bench said it could examine the prospect of fast-tracking the trial and oversee the progress of the trial.
On April 13, the apex court took suo motu notice of an incident of lawyers of Jammu and Kathua bar associations preventing the victim's lawyer from appearing in the case.
In January, an eight-year-old girl went missing while grazing horses in Rasana forest in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district. Her body was recovered a week later.
The apex court agreed to hear a plea of two of the accused in the case, Sanji Ram and Vishal Jangotra, seeking transfer of the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) besides seeking to be impleaded as parties in the petition filed by the father of the victim for transfer of case from Jammu and Kashmir to Chandigarh.
The victim father's plea for transfer of case would be heard on April 27 by the apex court.