New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed until 7 May the trial of the accused in the case relating to the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.

The court also said that it was open to examining whether or not the probe should be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The biological father of the victim had moved the apex court on 16 April, seeking an urgent transfer of the trial from Kathua to Chandigarh and adequate protection to the family of the victim and the lawyers involved in the case.

Members of the J&K Bar Association, who had stopped the police from filing the chargesheet, want the probe to be handed over to the CBI. This view is also backed by the Bar Council of India. Two ministers belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party have resigned after joining rallies in support of the accused.

The eight-year-old girl from the nomadic Bakerwal Muslim community had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in the Jammu region on 10 January. Her body was found in the same area a week later.

The state police say she was raped by six men who held her in captivity in a village temple for a week. The girl was drugged and raped repeatedly before being bludgeoned to death, the chargesheet says. The incident sparked outrage and protests across the country.

A special investigation team (SIT) formed to probe the incident has arrested eight suspects, including two special police officers and a head constable, who have been charged with destroying evidence.

On 16 April, on the first day of the trial before the district and sessions judge Sanjay Gupta, the accused pleaded not guilty and offered to undergo narco tests to prove their innocence.

The case will be beard next on 7 May.

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