Vic and Kate Groves have been warned the previous delays to the trial accused of murdering their daughter could now extend to 'many months' as the political upheaval in Kashmir continues with no sign of a return to 'normality'.
It's been five weeks since the Indian Government revoked Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution and placed severe restrictions on normal life in the Indian Administered State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
The area's Special Status within the Indian Constitution, held since the end of the Second World War, was replaced overnight by its reclassification as a Union Territory.
That means J&K now holds the same legal status as other parts of India and can no longer fly its own flag, make its own laws or seek protection against outsiders’ rights to buy property and land there. That led to the latest pause in the trial of Richard de Wit who denies murdering Sarah Groves on a houseboat in Kashmir in 2013.
Her family say it has been very difficult since the recent change in political stability to establish what is happening in J&K and how events there will affect the future direction of the trial.
Pictured: Kate and Vic Groves during a previous interview with Express.
In a statement released by the family, her father Vic Groves said they've been told that local news reports state that 200 people held in jails in and around Srinagar, including some held in the Central Jail, have been moved to other States in order to accommodate the influx of new prisoners resulting from some widescale arrests referred to. It is not known whether Mr de Wit is one of them.
There has been some progress on their behalf, although very limited.
"We understand that questions in relation to the trial have been raised through official channels in Delhi with Vijay Gokhale, the Indian Foreign Secretary. He has asked his officials to report back to the British High Commission when he has definitive information.
"We have also received unofficial legal advice from outside of Kashmir best summarised as under:
Mr Groves continued, saying that communication has been severely affected by the shutdown and the most recent trial date passed without anything happening and it is unlikely that the next scheduled court date, on Saturday 14 September, will bring any better news.
"Our efforts to establish contact with Srinagar, the part of J&K most severely affected by recent events, have been severely restricted. We received our first communication from within J&K on 27 August, twenty-three days after the communication blackout had been imposed. It was sent in difficult circumstances but it did imply that a ‘next hearing’ date had been set for 9 September. However, it also stated that the courts are not sitting and it must be presumed that the hearing would not take place.
Pictured: Richard de Wit, who denies murdering Sarah Groves, has been held since April 2013.
"We received a second communication from Srinagar which confirmed that the hearing did not take place. A further date has been scheduled for this coming Saturday, 14 September. This communication confirmed that the penal code under which Richard de Wit has been charged has been repealed and that Indian Law, as opposed to Kashmiri Law, will prevail with effect from 31 October 2019, the date when the new status of J&K takes full effect. However, no mention has been officially made about what happens to on-going cases. The future remains unclear in this regard but it appears that efforts to continue the trial under Kashmiri Law will continue until at least 31 October 2019. The situation beyond that remains uncertain."
Mr Groves said it is unlikely to be any progress made over the next few months indicating a long time before there is any sense of normality in J&K.
"The likelihood of further delays was confirmed when we received an email from an acquaintance who lives in Kashmir but who had travelled to Delhi en route to the UK, where for the first time in a month they had access to the internet. That email stated that it could be many months before matters normalised.
"A newsfeed from the Indian Express, received recently, indicated that restrictions are gradually being eased although no details are being released in advance. Unfortunately, Srinagar will be the last part of Kashmir to return to normality. All of this presupposes that matters do not flare up between India and Pakistan, this latter administration being severely critical of and threatening about the change of status triggered by the Indian Government."
Pictured top: Sarah Groves.
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