‘Must Initiate Inquiry Against Police’: Ex-DGP UP on Hathras Case

‘Suspending police not a punishment, departmental inquiry should be initiated,’ says ex-DGP UP on Hathras case.

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India
4 min read
In an exclusive interview to <b>The Quint</b>, ex-DGP UP Javeed Ahmad criticised UP police actions in cremating rape victim’s body past midnight in the absence of her family.&nbsp;
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In multiple media reports the family of the Hathras murder and alleged gang-rape victim has alleged that police did not allow the family to take the body home or carry out proper rituals before cremating the body.

Instead, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) police cremated the Hathras rape victim’s body around 2:30 am on 30 September – the grounds for doing so, as mentioned in the affidavit filed before the Supreme Court by the UP Home Ministry – “the cremation had therefore been taken place at night, only to maintain law and order”.

The Quint spoke to the former Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, Javeed Ahmad, to understand how the police could deprive the victim’s parents of their rights on the grounds of law and order? Should action be taken against all the concerned UP police officers for this?

‘Police Can’t Break Law to Maintain Order’: Ex-DGP

Do you think UP police was justified in cremating the body in the absence of victim’s parents?

Cremating a body late at night has happened earlier too in UP, but it has been done with the consent of the family. It has never been done by locking the family inside the house as reported in media. Law and order are two words.

To maintain the order, one cannot break the law. Police has to maintain order by using the provisions of the law. Police should have used legal provisions which were available to them. Here unfortunately, order has been enforced not as per the law but as per the directions of the people sitting in power.

Do you think the UP police came under political pressure?

Police officers should ensure that whatever is done, it is within the provisions of law. Beyond that if needed police should convince their political masters that this much can be done, and the rest cannot be. And it is not so that political masters will not listen to the police, I would refuse to believe so.

Do you think the UP police took this decision in haste?

The fear could be that a lot of people would gather during the cremation. That might have led to some sort of clash between Dalits and Thakurs. The point is that there could be a genuine apprehension that violence might take place but to prevent one incident, police can’t break the law, otherwise ye toh man mani wali baat ho jayegi (otherwise it becomes a ‘free for all’).

‘Suspension Is Not a Punishment’

What should UP Police have done in such a situation?

The police should have taken the family into confidence. If the family was not ready to cremate the body past midnight, then they could have convinced the family to cremate the body early in the morning. There should be some sanctity in cremating the body and that too in such a sensitive case. It’s a human body, not the body of an animal.

Is suspending the concerned police officers enough?

Suspension is not defined as a punishment under any rule, it is an administrative arrangement. There should be an expression of regret. Right now police feels that whatever they have done was correct. UP Police should acknowledge their mistake.

‘One Cannot Just Cremate a Body Like This’

What action should be taken against the erring UP Police officers?

There should be a departmental inquiry against all the police officers involved. If they are found guilty then they should be punished. Police action comes under gross incompetence.

What can we expect from a departmental inquiry?

If a departmental inquiry is initiated, the victim’s family members will also be questioned on whether police took their permission before cremating the body, whether the family was locked in the house as reported in media. The family has every right to give their version.

The head of the departmental inquiry committee cannot blindly believe the police’s version. The police officers involved in the cremation will have to produce evidence like photographs or CCTV footage, etc, to show that their apprehensions were valid, to support their version, and prove they were right.

How would you have handled this situation as a police officer?

I have witnessed instances where a body is not cremated for 24 to 36 hours due to a compelling situation. In such a situation, police needs to keep negotiating to find a solution. Aisa thodi hota hai ki ja ke jala do (one cannot just cremate the body).

Police should have made efforts to convince the family which could have taken 10-11 hours, even then had police been unsuccessful then they could have called gram pradhan or local politician to convince the family.

Even then had the family not agreed then cremating the body would have been perceived as last resort. But right now it does not look like it was done as a last resort.

Do you think police could have waited to cremate the body till early morning?

In Hindu religion the body of a person who has died, is not cremated after sunset. In this case UP Police could have waited till early morning, that’s what I feel. And if there was serious law and order situation and sloganeering by different politicians outside Safdarjung Hospital as mentioned in the affidavit by the UP government, then the head of departmental inquiry can also summon these politicians for questioning.

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