The family of the 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gangraped and murdered by four upper-caste Thakur men in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday requested the Supreme Court that the trial in the case be conducted in Delhi after investigation is completed, Live Law reported.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A Bobde had on October 6 called the incident “extraordinary” and “shocking”. It had also asked the Uttar Pradesh government to file a response on its witness protection plan and whether the family of the victim had access to a lawyer.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta detailed the security arrangements made for the victim’s family members and said advocate Seema Kushwaha will represent them, but they would also like a government appointed lawyer.
Kushwaha argued that the the trial should be transferred from Allahabad to Delhi. Senior advocate Indira Jaising, an intervener in the case, told the court that the family of the woman cannot get a fair trial in Uttar Pradesh. “Investigation has been botched up completely and the FIR does not even have a number,” Jaising added. “We want intensive monitoring of the case by a constitutional court. We want a special PP [public prosecutor] to be appointed. We are not satisfied by witness protection granted by the Uttar Pradesh government but want it by the Central Reserve Police Force.”
Jaising said the woman’s family members have grievance against the state government and CRPF personnel should be deployed for their safety, as was done in the Unnao rape case. “We don’t know how many more people in the family are safe,” she added. “It is critical for the trial to be transferred out of Uttar Pradesh.”
Advocate Harish Salve, representing the Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police, said CRPF personnel could be posted for the security of the family, but said the court should clarify it is not a reflection on the state police. Mehta told the judges that CRPF is not required, adding that the Adityanath-led administration was “completely non-partisan”.
The court is expected to deliver its judgement later.
A 19-year-old Dalit woman succumbed to her injuries at a hospital in Delhi on September 29 after four upper caste Thakur men raped and tortured her on September 14. The four accused in the case have been arrested. However, Sandeep Thakur, the main accused, has written to the state police chief from jail claiming that the men are being framed. He had also claimed that the woman was victim of “honour killing” as her family was opposed to their “friendship”.
The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to monitor the Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the case. It also requested the Supreme Court to direct the CBI to submit fortnightly status reports on the investigation to the state government.
On Monday, the Allahabad High Court had said the state government’s decision to cremate the woman in the middle of the night, even though done in the name of the law and order situation, was prima facie an infringement upon the human rights of the victim and her family. “The victim was at least entitled to decent cremation in accordance with her religious customs and rituals, which essentially are to be performed by her family,” it added.
The Lucknow bench also pulled up Additional Director General (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar, asking him if it was proper conduct for someone not connected with the investigation to comment about it. Kumar had denied that the woman was raped based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her. However, after the court pulled him up, he agreed that this should not have happened.
On October 3, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had recommended a CBI inquiry as protests erupted in several parts of India. The state police have also filed 19 first information reports in Hathras against unidentified persons for allegedly attempting to incite caste-based conflict.
The Central Bureau of Investigation, which took over the inquiry into the case on October 10, visited the crime scene in Boolgarhi village in Hathras on Tuesday. The woman’s brother and mother were also taken to the spot and the 15-member investigative team left after over two hours.