The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to explain how much more time the agency needed to complete its inquiry into the Hathras rape case, Live Law reported on Thursday. The court asked the investigators to file a status report on November 25, the next date of hearing.
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 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. On October 10, the CBI took over the investigation, after the state government’s handling of the case came under public scrutiny.
A bench of Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajan Roy issued the directives to CBI on Monday while hearing a petition the court had earlier filed suo motu in the case. The order was made available on the court website on Thursday.
“The CBI is directed to file a status report with regard to the ongoing investigation, before the next date [November 25],” the bench said. “It shall also indicate as to approximately how much time is likely to be taken to complete the investigation.”
The court also directed the Central Reserve Police Force to file an affidavit stating the woman’s family has been provided adequate security. The family was granted high-level security after they had on October 15 expressed the grievances against the Uttar Pradesh government, saying they were not satisfied with the arrangements made by it for their safety.
“Considering the fact that under the orders of the Supreme Court of India it is the Central Reserve Police Force which is required to provide security to the family members of victim and witnesses in the criminal case... Let a responsible officer of the CPRF file an affidavit indicating the nature of security provided and measures taken in this regard for the victim’s family before the next date”, required the bench.”— Allahabad High Court, Live Law
During the hearing, the court had also expressed concern on allowing Hathras District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar to continue in office during the pendency of the investigation into the case. The bench wondered whether it would not be appropriate to shift him elsewhere during these proceedings to ensure transparency and fairness in the matter, since Laxkar was “in the thick of things”.
Laxar has been accused of mishandling the rape case, after he ordered the hurried cremation of the woman’s body without allowing her family to be present. During the last hearing, the High Court had said it remained unconvinced by the state’s claims that the cremation had to be rushed on grounds of law and order. In the midst of this, a video was released on social media that showed the district magistrate issuing a veiled threat to the family, and persuading them to soften their stance against the police.
The High Court on Monday reiterated Laxar’s role, saying that suspended Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrat Veer in his affidavit to the court had stated that he and the district magistrate had taken the decision to cremate the woman’s body in the night.
Family says they are unhappy with CBI’s line of inquiry
The family, meanwhile, has reportedly informed the Allahabad High Court that it was unhappy with the line of investigation the CBI has taken by focussing on honour killing.
Although the four accused of raping the woman have been arrested, Sandeep Thakur, the main accused, had written to the state police chief from jail claiming that the men were being framed. He had also claimed that the woman was a victim of honour killing as her family was opposed to their “friendship”.
The woman’s brother denied any involvement in his sister’s death and has reportedly told CBI officials that if he had killed her then he would not have filed a complaint in the case. He also said that he would have “murdered her at home instead of fields if he had to”. The disclosures were made by the woman’s brother on Wednesday to a delegation of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, The Times of India reported.
“The family told us that the officials are questioning the relatives about the victim’s character, Seema Azad, a PUCL member who spoke to women relatives, told the newspaper. “They approached the family of the victim’s sister-in-law and also her sisters’ in-law to know about the girl’s character.”
The brother has further alleged that the locals in his village were deliberately spewing rumours about his involvement in the case in a bid to save the accused. “No altercation happened among us siblings,” he said.