Hathras Case: SC Shocked, Asks UP Govt About Witness Protection

UP government has also sought a CBI investigation into a case filed by the UP Police alleging criminal conspiracy.

Updated
India
5 min read
The Supreme Court of India. Image used for representational purposes.
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The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, 6 October, asked the Uttar Pradesh government to file an affidavit stipulating whether a witness protection plan is in place for the family of the Dalit woman who died days after being allegedly gang-raped in Hathras.

According to Live Law, the Supreme Court also asked the UP government to inform whether the victim’s family has chosen an advocate.

Advocate Indira Jaisingh had asked the court to provide instant witness protection to the kin of the Hathras victim. She had also told the court: “We don't want any outside lawyers, only from NALSA (National Legal Services Authority).”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, appearing for the UP Government, had said that the witnesses were already protected by the police.

A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramaniun on Tuesday took up a PIL filed by social activist Satyama Dubey, seeking a CBI or SIT probe, monitored by a sitting or retired Judge into the Hathras case, alleging failure of the UP government in taking action against the accused.

MORE DETAILS FROM THE HEARING

On the onset, the Solicitor General had clarified that he was not opposed to the petition, but he had also later said:

“Various narratives going about outside though everyone here is in bona fide capacity. The supervision of this Court is important for ruling this out…Another difficulty is that they say that the witness protection needs to be done, witnesses are already under protection of police.”   

While CJI Bobde did ask one of the petitioners how many times were they going to hear the same arguments, he also accepted that what took place in Hathras was “shocking” and that they were considering “invoking our jurisdiction”.

The matter has been listed for further hearing next week, reported Live Law.

WHAT THE UP GOVT SAID IN THEIR AFFIDAVIT

In an affidavit filed in the apex court, on Tuesday, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government has sought a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Hathras gang-rape case. The reason for this, as shared by the UP government, is to ensure a fair and impartial probe conducted by a Central Agency, “which is not within the administrative control of the State administration,” reported LiveLaw.

However, the Yogi Adityanath government has not merely sought a CBI probe into the case involving alleged gang-rape and murder of the 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, pointed out Live Law. The UP government has also, reportedly, sought a CBI investigation into a case filed by the UP Police, alleging the use of the Hathras case in a criminal conspiracy to create caste conflict.

The affidavit, according to Live Law, comes in the PIL filed by social activist Satyama Dubey, through advocate Sanjeev Malhotra.

The UP Government, in its response, has insisted that all steps were taken to ensure the not even a trace of suspicion remains and the probe into the case was progressing fairly and efficiently, reported Live Law.

The UP Government further went on to allege that a “false narrative” was gaining momentum, and thereby, asked for the CBI to take over the matter.

According to Live Law, the state government also claimed that an FIR was registered “immediately” on 14 September, when they first received information about the Hathras victim. The UP government also claimed that the charges were added, as and when they discovered new information.

The UP government, submitted, that after recording the victim’s statement on 19 September, the charge of “assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty” was added. Further, UP government, claimed that the charge of gang-rape was added after the victim revised her statement on 22 September.

However, the UP government also declared that the medical report of the victim suggest no prima facie finding of rape. The government, according to Live Law, also went on to claim that the post mortem reports suggest that the cause of death was indirect blunt trauma to the neck and not strangulation.

In response to the flak received for cremating the victim’s body in the dead of the night, the UP government said that round 200-250 people were already present when the victim's body reached the village. According to the state government’s submissions, they blocked the ambulance which was carrying the victim’s body, surrounded it and “started planned sloganeering” to prevent them from cremating the victim’s body at night.

Further, the UP government alleged that intelligence inputs had made it essential for them to cremate the body.

“Intelligence inputs were specifically received late at night of 29.09.2020 that lakhs of protestors of both communities / castes along with the supporters of some political parties and media will assemble in the morning of 30 September at the village, which is likely to turn violent and will lead to major law and order problems… There was also high alert in the district due to likely pronouncement of the Ayodhya - Babri case and further the administration has also to ensure there are no large gatherings in the COVID times in view of the strict Central Government guidelines.”   
UP government, according to Live Law.

UP GOVT CASTS A SHADOW OF ASPERSIONS

According to Live Law, the Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh has alleged that there had been “orchestrated effort” to “malign the image of the government on social media”. Further, the Yogi government alleged that “baseless comments” were used in order to build up a “distorted narrative” about the case.

The UP government gave examples of the reportage of the case on news and social media, and said, according to Live Law:

“The above diverse examples from all across the country from fake and verified handles from people of different political spectrums clearly points towards a conspiracy fomented by rival political parties to defame & discredit the Government of UP through it’s members.”

Referring to the attempts of the opposition parties to get through to the victim’s kin, as “Proxy war of Political parties”, the UP government, further alleged: “Such vicious propaganda is also leading to a law & order situation in various districts where the district units of rival political parties are instigating & mobilising the people to come on streets to hold protests based on such doctored images & baseless allegations."

WHAT DID THE PETITION SAY?

The Quint, accessed a copy of the petition registered in the court, by Advocate Sanjeev Malhotra on behalf of social activist Satyama Dubey, seeking either CBI investigation or appointment of a SIT to look into the matter. Filed under section 32 of the Constitution of India, the writ petition says:

“(This petition is) praying this Hon’ble Court passed appropriate order for fair Investigation. If possible then case may be hand-over [sic.] to the Central Bureau of Investigation or and SIT be formed to investigate the matter under the Sitting or Retired Hon’ble Supreme Court or High Court Judge.”   

Further, the petitioner requested that the matter may be transfered from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, alleging failure of the state government to take action against the accused.

This development comes two days after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recommended a CBI probe in the Hathras case.

The petitioner number 1, in the present case, is a Social Activist. In the petition, she drew attention to the fact that as a female, she is aggrieved by the injustice done to females, especially when no action is taken by the concerned authorities. She also lamented, in her PIL, how the victim’s body was hurriedly cremated in the wee hours of the morning by police personnel.

BACKGROUND

The Hathras case has sparked massive outrage on social media and people have hit the streets to protest. Several opposition leaders were roughed up while trying to enter Hathras.

The UP CM has ordered a CBI probe into the matter on Saturday. The SIT had earlier filed its report after a two-day investigation in the village. Five policemen, including the Superintendent of Police of Hathras district, were suspended based on the report. The SIT has also recommended a polygraph and narco test of all parties involved – accused, victim’s kin and the suspended policemen.

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