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Would You Have Burnt Body If Victim's Family Was Well-to-Do? Allahabad HC Asks Hathras DM

13 Oct 2020 3:19 AM GMT
Would You Have Burnt Body If Victims Family Was Well-to-Do? Allahabad HC Asks Hathras DM

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Monday took exception to the midnight cremation of the body of the 19-year old Dalit woman in the Hathras gangrape and murder case.A bench comprising Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajan Roy grilled the police officials and the District Magistrate who ordered the hasty burning of the body, allegedly without the consent of the parents...

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The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Monday took exception to the midnight cremation of the body of the 19-year old Dalit woman in the Hathras gangrape and murder case.

A bench comprising Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajan Roy grilled the police officials and the District Magistrate who ordered the hasty burning of the body, allegedly without the consent of the parents of the victim.

"Would you have burnt the body if the victim was from a well-to-do family?", the bench asked the District Magistrate, Praveen Kumar Laxkar, reported The Wire.

The bench also asked a senior officer of the UP Police, ADG (Law and Order), Prashant Kumar, if he would have allowed his daughter to be cremated the same way, reported The India Today.

Both the victim's family and the state authorities were physically present in the Court, to present their versions in the matter.  The victim's parents accused the district magistrate and the police of neither allowing them a last glimpse of their daughter's body, nor permitting them to be present at the hastily carried out cremation.

The girl's father reportedly submitted before the bench that the District Magistrate had told him : 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?"

The ADG(Law and Order) told the bench that the cremation was hurriedly done to avoid a law and order situation.

The District superintendent of police, Vikrant Vir, claimed that he was acting on his own accord and not on any "instructions from Lucknow", the state capital.

After the State official's request for time to file additional replies, the bench adjourned the hearing till November 2, 2020.

Advocate Seema Kushwaha appearing for the victim's family has urged the High Court to (i) provide adequate protection to the family, (ii) transfer the case outside Uttar Pradesh (preferably to Delhi or Mumbai) and (iii) not to keep the details of the investigation confidential.

Additional Advocate General VK Shahi appeared for State. Senior Advocate JN Mathur is Amicus Curiae.  

The High Court had taken cognizance of the matter last week after observing that the midnight cremation "shocked the conscience of the judges".

It had issued notices to the State of U.P. through Additional Chief Secretary (Home), the Director General of Police, U.P., Lucknow, Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, U.P., Lucknow, District Magistrate, Hathras, Superintendent of Police, Hathras, to explain their version of the incident and apprise the Court about the status of the investigation relating to the crime against the deceased victim.

It had also summoned the victim's family also to hear their version. To this end, the State Authorities have been directed to ensure that no coercion, influence or pressure is exerted upon the family members of the deceased in any manner, by anyone.

Significantly, investigation of the matter has been taken over by the CBI pursuant to an order issued by the Central Government, based on a request made by the UP Government.

The woman, belonging to Valmiki community, was allegedly gang-raped and strangulated by four upper-caste men on September 14. She was initially given treatment at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital, Aligarh. When her health started deteriorating, she was shifted to Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi, where she breathed her last on September 29.

The police cremated her body in the middle of the night, allegedly ignoring the protests of her family members.

The HC Court had remarked that if these reports are true, then it would be a case of "gross violation of basic human and fundamental rights" enshrined under Article 21 and Article 25 of the Constitution of India "in a most blatant and uncalled for manner, something which is absolutely unacceptable in our country governed by Rule of Law and the Constitution."

A petition is pending in the Supreme Court seeking court-monitored CBI probe. The UP Government told the Court that it has no objection to the CBI probe and requested that CBI be also asked to investigate the "criminal conspiracy" behind the alleged propaganda against the state using the case.

The UP Government told the Supreme Court that the midnight cremation was done to avert law and order issues as several groups were mobilizing protesters at the village to incite riots.

Further, it has registered FIRs for sedition, criminal conspiracy etc alleging that there was an attempt to promote enmity between caste groups and incite riots by propagating false news about the case. One Kerala-based journalist and three others have been arrested by UP Police while they were proceeding to Hathras to report.

The UP Police has denied the angle of rape in the case by citing a forensic report which showed the absence of sperm samples in the victim's body.

As per the State Government's stand, a FIR in the alleged rape case was registered "immediately" on September 14, 2020, on receipt of information, and subsequently, charges of sexual assault and gang rape were added.

As the matter is pending before the High Court, the Supreme Court asked all parties appearing before the Court to put forth suggestions as to the scope of the Allahabad High Court proceedings and how the top court can make them more relevant.

It also asked the State Government to file an affidavit stipulating Witness Protection Plan for the family and witnesses in the case.

Meanwhile, a habeas corpus plea was filed in the High Court on behalf of the victim's family, alleging that the State Government had wrongfully put them under house arrest.

The plea was however dismissed noting that the Supreme Court is already seized of this matter.

The State on the other hand denied that the victim's family was restrained. In fact, it categorically submitted that they are "free to move" but "they have never made any request before the Administration for going anywhere".


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