Jammu, Apr 13 (PTI) Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh today defended the investigation by the crime branch into the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district, saying it was a court-monitored probe.

Asserting that the culprits in the case must be punished, he said if someone is not satisfied with the probe, he can move the court and put forth his point.

Jammu has been tense since the brutal rape and murder of the girl belonging to the nomadic Muslim Bakerwal community in January. The police have arrested eight people in the case, but the Bar Association of Jammu (BAJ) has opposed the action alleging “targeting of minority Dogras”.

Batting strongly for justice for the victim, the BAJ had yesterday claimed that the probe by the crime branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police was done on questionable line amid threats and coercion by a team of officers from Kashmir Valley including one who served jail term for alleged rape and murder of a minor.

Defending the investigation by the crime branch, the deputy chief minister said, “Witnesses were brought to the court, and the court was made aware about the probe from time to time. We are clear that the investigation (by the crime branch) was fair.” “Our party (BJP) and the government are on same page that culprits should be severely punished. Culprits and criminals have no religion. The girl should get justice, that is our resolve,” Singh told PTI, adding, “Our state executive are on record saying that the criminals should be punished.” The DGP had yesterday defended the crime branch probe saying the Jammu and Kashmir Police is highly professional and competent to investigate the case, but added that they have no objection to a probe by the CBI.

On April 9, some lawyers had tried to prevent a police team from filing a charge sheet in the case following which another case was registered on Tuesday against those who obstructed the sleuths.

Taking a dig at protesting people, including some lawyers for their acts, the deputy chief minister said the matter “has gone beyond the preview of the government or any other agency” and they should move court over the issue.

Singh also came in defence of the two BJP ministers who had reportedly attended an event organised by a right-wing group in defence of the accused in the case, saying they had gone there the prevent the situation from getting communalised.

Asserting that the minister in question had told him that they never supported the protesters, the deputy chief minister said, “They had gone there to defuse the situation and prevent it from getting communalised as people were protesting in large numbers, highway were blocked and it was turning into a major law-and-order problem”.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.