The first 2019 hearing in the murder trial of Sarah Groves fell flat after the Judge failed to turn up for "reasons that remain unclear".
This was the third hearing in a row where this has happened, so the case was re-assigned to a third 'Additional Sessions' Court, but was unable to go ahead because the man accused of killing Sarah, Richard de wit, was not in the building.
This all comes ahead of more expected civil unrest in Srinagar because of Independance day which will take place on 26 January. Unrest in India has bogged this trial down ever further than it already was by blocking travel around the court building. It has seen a number of recent hearings cancelled because it was deemed too dangerous to transfer Mr de Wit to the Courts.
Vic Groves, Sarah's father, is starting to get used to this lack of progress: "In some ways today’s lack of progress did not come as a surprise. The court system in Kashmir shuts down for at least two weeks in January and today was the first day back after the recess. Despite efforts to establish from the Prosecutor whether or not witnesses were expected to appear, it was not possible to establish contact with him during the shutdown. This explains but does not justify the lack of witnesses.
"To quote Independence Day as the reason for anticipated civil unrest, thereby preventing the accused, Richard de Wit, being brought as an under-trial prisoner from jail to court, is ridiculous. Independence Day is ten days away on 26 January."
Unrest is the main culprit for delays in recent months.
Mr Groves said there had been no progress made I the trial since the 1 November. But back then, things were starting to look more positive, as a number of witnesses were heard.
Toward the end of last year increasing pressure was put on the courts in India to get this trial over with, and it looked like that pressure had had the desired affect, though whether that was truly the case is now being called into question.
"Since the last hearing and in recognition of the fact that the trial has effectively come to a halt, given no progress at all since 1 November 2018, as stated in the last media release, letters have been written to the Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir and to the Law Department of Jammu & Kashmir. They contained various suggestions for unblocking the log-jam, including the replacement of Mr Mohammad Sultan as Prosecutor in this case. No responses have been received.
"2019 has not started as we had hoped."
Pictured top: Sarah Groves.
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