SRINAGAR: Sparking a political row in Jammu and Kashmir, the state government led by the Governor N N Vohra has appointed Aseem Sawhney, a defence lawyer in the horrifying rape and murder case of the Kathua child, as deputy advocate general of the state.

Sawhney, who is defending one of the main accused in the brutal rape and murder of the nomad girl from Rasana, was yesterday chosen for the coveted post by the law department of the state government.

Reacting to the development, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Ironic that a day after celebrating World Day for International Justice, the defence counsel in the horrific rape & murder Kathua case has been appointed as Additional Advocate General. 1/3”

“Rewarding those who defend alleged murderers & rapists is abhorrent & a shocking violation of the spirit of justice. Such a move will only serve to encourage the rape culture rampant in our society. Expect the @jandkgovernor to intervene. 2/2,” she said in another tweet.

According to the order, four senior additional advocate generals, three advocate generals, four deputy advocate generals and four government advocates were appointed to defend the state in both Srinagar and Jammu wings of High courts. Sawhney figures at Serial Number 7 in the Jammu list.

Repeated calls to Sawheny, a Jammu based lawyer and son of Jammu based lawyer, A K Sawhney, the main counsel of the accused in Rasana case, went unanswered. However, he has told media that he didn’t appear for the accused in Rasana case since July 2. The move, however, hasn’t gone down well in Kashmir.

“I hope this is not true,” Naeem Akhtar, former minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government and senior PDP leader wrote on Twitter.

“Making a lawyer who is defending the state charge-sheeted men responsible for rape and murder of 8-year-old Asifa an Additional Advocate General of J&K State is unacceptable. A man challenging a state chargesheet cannot be its advocate. It is unethical and inhuman too!” Arjumand Talib, editor of Ziraat Times wrote on Facebook.

The eight-year-old child was drugged and raped repeatedly inside a temple in Rasana village of Kathua before being strangulated and bludgeoned to death, apparently to create fear in the minority Muslim community in Kathua. Her body was later thrown into a forested area.

The case became one of the reasons for growing differences between the erstwhile coalition partners, People’s Democratic Party and BJP, leading to the expulsion of two ministers from the Hindu rightwing party, for rally in behind the alleged culprits in the case.

The trail of the case is presently going in Pathankot on the orders of the Supreme Court after a plea was filed by the victim girl’s father that a fair trial was not possible at Kathua.

In a dramatic turn of events this week, an envelope containing hair strands of the victim, which was produced in the court by Special Investigating Team of J&K Police, turned out to be empty, with the defence calling it a “setback” to the trial.

“The envelope with seven seals/stamps of the FSL, which conducted the DNA test of the victim’s hair, was opened in the court on judge’s order but there were no hairs inside the envelope,” sources said

Earlier, a cop accused his senior of not depositing clothes of the victim in the warehouse of the police station so as to tamper with the evidence.