The family of the 19-year-old Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district, who died last month after four upper caste Thakur men gangraped and tortured her, moved the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday against their “illegal confinement” at home by district authorities, Hindustan Times reported.

A habeas corpus petition was filed by a Valmiki organisation named Akhil Bharatiya Valmiki Mahapanchayat’s on behalf of the family.

The woman’s family members alleged that they were locked up in their house by the district administration on September 29 (the day the woman died) and September 30. The petition also stated that the woman’s parents, brothers and two other relatives were stopped from meeting and talking to people freely, which was a violation of their right to freedom of speech and expression.

The petition sought the release of the woman’s family from confinement. It will be taken up by the court today.

Four upper-caste Thakur men had brutally raped and tortured the woman, who succumbed to her injuries on September 29. The Uttar Pradesh administration had then hurriedly cremated her body against her family’s wishes while they had been locked inside their home, leading to an outpouring of anger and protests across the country.

On Tuesday, the Hathras Police filed a first information report over social media posts revealing the woman’s identity, The Indian Express reported. Under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, it is illegal to reveal the identity of a person who has been sexual assaulted.

“Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C or section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.” 

— Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code

The FIR was filed on a complaint by Lucknow-based activist Nutan Thakur.

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The case

The Hathras gangrape case has become emblematic of the caste-based violence faced by Dalit women in Uttar Pradesh. Besides this, the sequence of events around the crime and the hasty cremation by authorities have also raised doubts whether this was done to suppress medical evidence of sexual assault.

On Wednesday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath gave a ten-day extension to the Special Investigation Team constituted by his government to submit their report on the death and gangrape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras.

Amid mounting pressure and protests, Adityanath had on October 3 recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation-monintered inquiry in the case. The matter is being heard by the Supreme Court, which asked the Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday to file an affidavit on how the witnesses are being protected in the case.

The Hathras gangrape case has evoked anger and grief across the country. (PTI)

Ahead of the hearing, the Uttar Pradesh government in an affidavit claimed that the midnight cremation was done to avoid large-scale violence in the district. Besides the alleged gangrape and assault case, the government also sought a CBI probe into the FIR related to the alleged criminal conspiracy to spread caste conflict, instigate violence and incidents of “vicious propaganda by sections of media and political interests”.

The government also informed the court that there were no signs suggestive of rape in the case, citing a forensic report that said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from the woman. But the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was first admitted – had negated this, saying the report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed. Experts have also pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected many days after the crime was committed, sperm would not be present.