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The Allahabad High Court on Monday, 12 October, asked ADG (Law and Order), Prashant Kumar, if he would have allowed his daughter to be cremated the same way the last rites of the 19-year-old Dalit girl were allegedly forcibly done in the middle of the night.
The court has set the next date of hearing in the Hathras Case to 2 November after the Lucknow Bench heard the case in the presence of the family of the victim, Additional Chief Secretary (Home Department) Awanish K Awasthi, DGP HC Awasthy and other officers.
“The victim's family has demanded that reports of CBI be kept confidential. We had also prayed that the case be transferred out of UP. The third demand is that the family be provided security until the case completely concludes,” Seema Kushwaha, lawyer of the victim’s family, told ANI.
‘No Pressure From Authorities’ for Cremation, ADG Alleges
The court questioned if the similar treatment would have been meted out if the victim came from a rich family.
The District Magistrate of Hathras Parveen Kumar Laxar took full responsibility for the decision related to holding the cremation of the 19-year-old victim in the night, reported India Today. He clarified that this move was to keep a tab on the law and order situation, amid a heavy crowd.
However, the victim’s family said there was a heavy police presence and so there could not have been an issue with the situation.
"ADG Law and Order Prashant Kumar was asked 'if you had a daughter, would you allow the funeral to take place without seeing her body? ADG Law and Order was speechless. He was unable to answer any questions," advocate Seema Kushwaha, who represented the victim's family in court, told the publication.
He had also denied that there was any pressure on him from the government or higher officials.
Lucknow Bench Took Suo Motu Cognisance of Incident
The five members of the family had left Hathras for Lucknow, early on Monday morning, amidst tight security. They were accompanied by security personnel, officials and a large number of media persons, who travelled with the convoy, IANS reported.
The Lucknow Bench has taken suo motu cognizance of the incident.
“The administration had asked us how many from our family would like to be present for the hearing on 12 October. My father, mother, sister, younger brother and I will be appearing in court,” the victim’s elder brother had told reporters earlier.
The high court had asked the Hathras district judge to ensure family members of the deceased can appear to record their version of what had happened. State and district authorities were also asked to extend all help and security the family needed.
“We are inclined to examine as to whether there has been gross violation of the fundamental rights of the deceased and the family members of the victim,” the court had said on 1 October, a day after the victim had been cremated at 2:40 am on 30 September, in her village, without the presence or consent of any family member.
The court has also asked media houses to share content on the basis of which the incident had been reported.
The state of Uttar Pradesh, through additional chief secretary (home), DGP, ADG (law and order), and Hathras district magistrate and superintendent were named respondents.
‘Family Would Be Kept Away from Media’
The girl's brother, meanwhile, has said the family will not immerse the ashes just yet.
“Not until we get justice and are sure that the body that was cremated was that of my sister. We were not even allowed to see her face one last time,” he said, according to IANS.
A senior police official in Lucknow said that the family would be kept away from the ‘aggressive presence’ of the media.
"They have already been harassed enough (by the media) in Hathras and we want that they should be allowed to give their statements before the court without any more hassles," the official had earlier said.
SC to Hear the Matter on 15 October
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has fixed the hearing in the matter on 15 October. The top court has asked the Uttar Pradesh government to answer what security arrangements were made for the victims' family and the witnesses, if the aggrieved family has an advocate and the status of the trial in Allahabad High Court.
The UP government is yet to submit its reply.
(With inputs from IANS, The Indian Express)