The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Allahabad High Court to monitor the ongoing the CBI probe into the Hathras gang-rape and murder case.
As regards the plea for transfer of trial outside the State of Uttar Pradesh, the CJI-led bench stated that the question of transfer is left open until the investigation is completed.
The bench also took note of the submission of the Solicitor General of India that the order passed by the Allahabad High Court had disclosed details about the victim and her family members. Based on that, the Court requested the Allahabad High Court to remove the facts disclosing the details of the victim and her family from the order.
On October 15, top court reserved orders on the PIL Satyama Dubey vs Union of India seeking court monitoring of the investigation. Earlier, the CBI had taken over the investigation from the UP police on the basis of a recommendation made by the Uttar Pradesh Government.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had informed a bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, AS Bopanna & V. Ramasubramaniun that affidavits had been filed on behalf of the State stipulating the Witness protection plan as well as choice of legal representation by the Victims' family in terms of an earlier order of Top Court.
"There are two affidavits filed by state one regarding the protection given to witnesses and family of the victim. The other one is regarding the choice of lawyer for the victim. There are CCTV cameras deployed outside the home of the Victim. The victims family had informed the Police that Adv Seema Kushwaha has been engaged by them and that they would also like a lawyer from the Government," said the SG.
Advocate Seema Kushwaha appeared for the victims family and urged the court to transfer the trial of the proceedings after investigation to Delhi.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising had submitted that a fair trial is not expected in the state of UP. "Investigation has been botched up completely and the FIR does not even have a number," she added.
"We want intensive monitoring of the case by a constitutional court. We want a special PP to be appointed. We are not satisfied by witness protection granted by the UP Govt but want it by the CRPF. The victims have grievance against the State. There the victim died, here the victim has already died. We don't know how many more people in the family are safe. It is critical for the trial to be transferred out of Uttar Pradesh" - Jaising had told.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for the Director General of Police (UP) said that he had no problem with the witnesses being protected by the CRPF but said that if the court ultimately does so, it must clarify that the same does not reflect on the Uttar Pradesh Police.
Other intervenors including Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, Advocate Aparna Bhat, Kirti Singh & BR Talekdar also made submissions.
In this backdrop, the court concluded hearing in the case and reserved its verdict.
The bench had earlier directed the State of Uttar Pradesh to file an affidavit stipulating Witness Protection Plan for the family and witnesses of the 19-year old woman who was allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men in Hathras District, Uttar Pradesh.
The CJI led bench had also asked the Solicitor General, appearing for the State of UP to find out whether the victims family had chosen a lawyer for representation.
The bench further asked all parties appearing before the Court to put forth suggestions as to the scope of the Allahabad HC proceedings and how the top court can make them more relevant.
Before the case was taken up by the top court, the UP Government had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court asking it to order a CBI inquiry into the Hathras Gang Rape case so as to ensure that a fair and impartial investigation takes place by a Central Agency "which is not within the administrative control of the State administration".
In this context, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Court that the UP Government was not taking an adversarial stand in the present plea but urged the court to take note of the "narratives" that were being spread in relation to the unfortunate case by various stakeholders.
The plea had further sought a transfer of the matter from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi alleging failure of the State Government to take action against the accused persons.
As per news reports, on September 14, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was abducted and then gang raped by four upper-caste men who then subjected her to brutal torture by breaking her bones and cutting off her tongue. She passed away on Tuesday, the 29th of September, and was cremated by police officials in the middle of the night without the consent of her family.
It was submitted in the petition, filed by Advocate Sanjeev Malhotra on behalf of social activist Satyama Dubey, that the statement of the police that the cremation was carried out as per the wishes of the family is false as "the police personnel himself buried the dead body of the deceased even media personnel has also been banned as per the information received (sic)".
The plea underlines the issue that the police authorities have not performed their duties and are shielding the accused. Additionally, the family of the victim is being victimized by upper-caste persons.
The plea contended that the "Petitioner herein is demanding justice for the victim for the brutal attack, rape and murder of the victim".
In view of the same, it sought for directions to the Union of India and other concerned authorities for a fair investigation and to transfer the same to CBI or to form an SIT under a sitting or retired Judge of the Supreme Court/High Court.
Lastly, it prayed for the transfer of the trial from Hathras, Uttar Pradesh to Delhi and for an order for speedy trial.