The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Allahabad High Court to monitor the Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry in the Hathras gangrape case, reported Live Law. The court said all aspects, including security provided to witnesses, will be monitored by the High Court.
The bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, however, left the question of transfer of trial outside Uttar Pradesh open until the investigation is completed. Many had expressed their apprehension that a fair probe was not possible in Uttar Pradesh. It also refused to comment on the merits of the case in its order.
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. The woman was cremated in the dead of the night near her home on September 30 without the presence of her family members.
At present, the CBI is probing the case. A 15-member investigative team visited the crime scene in Boolgarhi village in Hathras on October 14. The woman’s brother and mother were also taken to the spot. The agency officials left after over two hours.
Earlier this month, the Allahabad High Court took suo motu cognisance of the case and the events leading up to the woman’s cremation. A bench of Justices Pankaj Mithal and Rajan Roy had said the 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 had said.
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 on 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 6, the three-judge Supreme Court bench had 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. Advocate Seema Kushwaha, who represented the woman’s family, argued that the trial should be transferred from Allahabad to Delhi.
The Uttar Pradesh government had urged the Supreme Court to monitor the CBI 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.
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. 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.