The Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday transferred Hathras District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar, who was held responsible for the late-night cremation of the 19-year old Dalit woman who was gangraped and murdered in September, reported Live Law. As many as 16 officers of the Indian Administrative Services were transferred in Thursday’s reshuffle, according to PTI.

Laxkar’s role in the Hathras incident came under criticism after he allowed police to hurriedly cremate the body of the victim around 3 am on September 30. The woman’s parents alleged that Laxkar and the police did not allow them to be present at the cremation site or even have a look at the body before the final rites. A few days after the cremation, a secretly recorded video of Laxkar came into light, where he could be seen issuing a veiled threat to the Dalit woman’s father, asking him to soften his stance about the case.

The former Hathras district magistrate was also pulled up for his actions by the Allahabad High Court in October. After recording statements from the woman’s family, a bench of Justices Pankaj Mithal and Rajan Roy asked Laxkar if he would have cremated his own daughter in the same manner. In his statement to the court, the woman’s father said that Laxkar had allegedly told the family: “You are getting Rs 25 lakh from the chief minister’s fund, do you think you would have got that if your daughter had died due to coronavirus?”

In November, the court had also asked a counsel representing the Uttar Pradesh government if it was fair and reasonable to allow Laxkar to continue on his post, while a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry was underway on the matter, reported Live Law. In its response the Adityanath-led government had said in December that it will not transfer Laxkar as it was being made a “political issue” and that there was no question of the district magistrate tampering with evidence related to the case.

However, now, Laxkar has been transferred to Mirzapur as the district magistrate, while Ramesh Ranjan will take his position, according to PTI.

In the meanwhile, the CBI charged the four accused in the matter under sections, including those related to murder, gangrape and atrocities on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Hathras gangrape case

Four upper-caste men raped and brutally assaulted the woman in Hathras on September 14. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital. The woman had suffered suffered multiple fractures, a spinal injury and a deep cut in her tongue.

The Allahabad High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the incident and the events leading up to the cremation of the woman. The Supreme Court too had called the incident “extraordinary and shocking” and had directed the Allahabad High Court to monitor the CBI investigation into the matter.

The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently 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, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was admitted – said the forensic lab’s 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. The autopsy report of the woman had showed that she was strangled and suffered a cervical spine injury. The final diagnosis did not mention rape, but had pointed out that there were tears in her genitalia and there had been “use of force”.