The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday took suo motu cognizance of the rape and murder of a twelve-year-old girl in Uttarkashi.
The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj K. Tiwari also appointed Advocates Sanjay Bhatt and Lata Negi as the amicus curiae in the case.
The Court took cognizance of two reports published in Times of India, titled “Uttarkashi rape: NH blocked for 10 hours” and “City residents march to demand death penalty for rapists of Uttarkashi girl”.
Besides taking stock of the situation from the two reports, the Court noted that the news reports also call for land reforms by restricting outsiders from purchasing agricultural land in Uttarakhand. To this end, the report refers to Section-118 of Himachal Land Reforms and Tenancy Act, which restricts outsiders from buying land in the hill State.
It further recalled that it had directed the State Government to consider amending the law to introduce death penalty for those convicted of raping minors, adding, “The State Government, till date, has not made its stand clear in the matter.”
While the Court was informed by Mr. Paresh Tripathi, Chief Standing Counsel, that the accused was arrested yesterday and will be produced before the Court within 24 hours, it nevertheless opined that the inquiry and investigation in such “sensitive matters” should be carried out by permanent Special Investigation Teams.
It therefore directed the case to be handed over to the Special Investigation Team, Uttarkashi, which is expected to complete the inquiry and investigation in the matter within four weeks and thereafter, to submit the charge-sheet. The media was further prohibited from divulging the name/ identity of the victim and her family members, including their blurred pictures.
Listing the matter on 31 August, the Court then issued the following directions:
Permanent SITs within 48 hours
Handing over the case to a SIT
Speedy trial in all such cases
State’s response on land reforms
Protection to victims and their families
Prohibition against divulging victim’s or family members’ identity
Read the Order Here