Taking suo motu cognizance of the alleged gang-rape and subsequent death of a 19-year-old woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district as well as her forcible cremation allegedly by police, the Allahabad High Court on Thursday (October 1) asked senior government officials and police to appear before it for the next hearing on October 12.
A Lucknow division bench of the high court comprising justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh ordered Uttar Pradesh additional chief secretary, state police chief and an additional director general of police to appear before it on October 12 to explain the incident. The court also ordered Hathras district magistrate and superintendent of police to fill it on the various aspects of the cases including the ongoing investigation ordered by the chief minister.
The court which seemed upset over the cremation of the woman by the police, has also summoned her family so as to hear their version of the story
The court wondered whether the body of the victim, as alleged by her family, was forcibly cremated in the dead of the night, because of their economic status. It said it would decide, “as to the necessity of monitoring the investigation or getting it conducted through an independent agency as per law.”
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday asked a three-member special investigation team to probe the case and submit a report within seven days.
“However, for the moment, we are concerned with what has happened thereafter. The incidents which took place after the death of the victim on 29.09.2020 leading up to her cremation, as alleged, have shocked our conscience, therefore, we are taking suo moto cognizance of the same,” the court said.
The Dalit teen was allegedly sexually assaulted by four men on September 14 in a Hathras village and admitted to the AMUs Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Aligarh in a critical condition. She was on Monday referred to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital in an extremely critical condition with spinal injuries, paralysis and cuts in her tongue and died on early Tuesday, triggering widespread outrage, protests and calls for justice.
The Hathras police, however, took her body to her native district and allegedly cremated her overnight without her parent’s consent. The judges said they were inclined to examine whether there had been a gross violation of the Fundamental Rights of the deceased and her family members and if the state authorities acted oppressively, high-headedly and illegally to violate these rights. The rights of individual citizens in the country and the state especially that of the poor and the downtrodden such as the family members of the deceased victim and the deceased herself are paramount.
“The Courts of Law are under a bounden duty to see that the said rights available under the Constitution are protected at all costs and the state does not, in its misplaced endeavour for political or administrative reasons, transgress the limits of its powers to encroach and violate such rights, especially in the case of poor and the weak, observed the bench, while summoning UP government officials. If it is found to be so, then, this would be a case where accountability will not only have to be fixed but for future guidance, but also stern action would be required, warned a shocked bench. We would like to examine if the economic and social status of the deceased’s family has been taken advantage of by the state authorities to oppress and deprive them of their Constitutional rights,” the bench said.
The bench also expressed its intention to monitor the ongoing probe into the case by an SIT set up by the UP government and possibly transfer the case to some independent investigation agency, if the probe result does not inspire confidence. We have also pondered that an SIT has been constituted by the state government in the matter. We leave it open for our consideration on future dates, as to the necessity of monitoring the investigation or getting it conducted through an independent agency as per law, the bench said.
The bench took cognisance of the case on the basis of news reports in various national dailies and TV news channels and also asked them to assist the court in the adjudication of the matter by submitting their news source material in a pen drive or a compact disc. Besides putting the state government’s officials on notice, the bench also asked its registry to communicate the order to the state advocate general and chief standing counsel to respond in the matter.
The bench also appointed senior advocate JN Mathur and Abhinav Bhattacharya as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter. The bench began its order with a couplet written by Mahatma Gandhi and also quoted Oscar Wilde, who said, “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth with the grasses wearing above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.” The court, however, lamented that the death of the Hathras teen had none of these poetic elements in it.
(With inputs from agencies)