Delayed Medical, Narco: Lawyer Abha Singh on Legalities of Hathras

What were the legal lapses in the case, and what is the way forward now? Lawyer Abha Singh explains.

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Video Editor: Vivek Gupta

The alleged gang-rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras district has caused national outrage and has also led to many unanswered questions on how the case was handled by the administration.

Human right's lawyer and advocate at the Bombay High Court, Abha Singh, speaks to The Quint on the legalities of the case and the way forward for the victim's family.

What Were the Lapses in Usual Protocol in the Hathras Case?

"Although the law very clearly states that once the issue of rape is brought to the notice of the authorities, within 24 hours the medical should be done. But in this case, the forensics were done on 25 September, when rape charges were added on 21 September. That is why, maybe, the forensic report now says that presence of semen is not found", says Abha Singh.

However, she says that presence of semen or the lack of it, does not automatically prove or disprove rape.

"There are Supreme Court guidelines. In case the private parts are not injured or there are no semenal stains found, that does not mean that rape has not taken place", Singh says.

Victim's Body Creamted at the Dead of Night; Any Legal Precedents Against This?

"The Allahabad High Court has stepped in and took suo moto cognisance of the matter. It said that right to life also includes right to decent burial," says Singh.

"There are a couple of cases where precedents have been set. In 2010, there was the Praveen Gandhi case in Mumbai, where the burial was taken up in the court, and the court clearly said that it is the right of the family to decide how they want to give(sic.) a funeral," she adds.

What Are the Possible Reasons for the Uttar Pradesh Government to Order a Narco Test on All Linked to the Case?

"There are a couple of Supreme Court orders that say that a narco test could be done of the accused, but their consent is a must. If there is no consent, the legal validity of the narco test is questionable," explains Singh.

She also says that court precedents allow for a narco test of the accused only. However, in this case, the UP government has ordered for the test to be conducted on the police as well as the victim's family.

"If the government has ordered for a narco test of the accused, it means that the government feels that these cops are also part of the crime, because maybe somewhere they tried to help the accused," she explains.

But why order a narco test on the victim's family as well?

Singh says that the possible reason could be to investigate the mother's statement, which initially did not mention rape.

"On 14 September (when the victim's body was found), the mother of the victim did not talk about sexual assault. That is what is going to be investigated. But, of course, as a lawyer who has handled such cases, I've seen that a lot of times people don't come forward and complain of rape because of the stigma attached with it, and because they are scared.”

Amidst Threats and Intimidation, What Legal Recourse Can the Family Seek Now?

"They should record their statement in front of the magistrate, so that when the case comes for trial, they don't go hostile. It is necessary, because you cannot rule out that the victim's family can be threatened or compromised," says Singh.

"The mother and the brother who went to the police station to lodge a complaint, they need to re-run the narrative and see to it that they don't miss out anything. At the time of trial, the accused will have a whole battery of lawyers. They are financially well-off, and they will try to build their own narrative. It is, therefore, important that everything is verified and cross-verified, and a fool-proof statement is submitted by the police in the magistrate's court,” she concludes.

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