Over 100 days after a Mathura court took cognisance of a charge sheet filed against eight UAPA accused on 3 April, the accused are yet to get a copy of it. The allegations against them were of trying to disrupt law and order situation after the rape and murder of a Dalit woman in west UP's Hathras.
The two lawyers representing the eight accused, advocate Madhuvan Dutt and Wills Mathews, say this is constant humiliation by the UP government who are blatantly ignoring the law.
"The law under Section 207 of CrPC mandates that the accused be given a charge sheet 'without delay', what is happening here is therefore is continuous and brazen violation to the fundamental right to a fair trial," Dutt said. Mathews added that 'not acting as per the procedure established by law is seriously prejudicial to the interest of the accused'.
Other than speaking to the lawyers of the accused, The Quint also followed up with the SSP of Mathura, the Circle Officer of Maanth as well as the Additional District Government Counsel of the concerned Mathura court to understand why this basic right of a prisoner's right to self defense is not being met.
What Happened at The Last Hearing?
Mathura-based advocate, Dutt, who represents seven of the eight accused, other than Kappan, said, "We have been regularly following up in court. On the last hearing of the application on 2 July, the Additional District Government Council said he had issued instructions to the police station. Then the police officer joined and told the judge that when he went and told the concerned inspector that copies of the charge sheet had to be provided, he turned around and said that they do not have money to provide copies to the eight UAPA accused. We will write to the SSP of Mathura, and once funds come from there we will be able to do this."
Dutt adds that the judge laughed at this remark.
He then intervened and reminded the court, "This is not the procedure. The state government has a different department in every district judge's court, which includes state government employees, whose responsibility it is to supply a copy of the charge sheet to the counsels of the accused. When this system already exists, then why ask for funds?"
Dutt added that these were delay tactics that had gone on for too long.
"So what if the STF has investigated the matter, the government has the necessary infrastructure to provide us with a copy of the charge sheet. The matter was just left there. The Additional District Government Counsel said he was not aware of this," Dutt claimed.
The next hearing in court of the case is on 30 July.
These hearings are happening in the case under an application filed on 4 May under section 207 of the CrPC which states:
In any case where the proceeding has been instituted on a police report, the Magistrate shall without delay furnish to the accused, free of cost, a copy of each of the following, including the police report (charge sheet).
Passing the Buck: Who Will Provide The Accused Charge Sheet?
As the inspector had mentioned the SSP Mathura in court, we spoke to his office.
SSP Mathura Dr Gaurav Grover's PRO, Trikuresh Kaushik, picked up the call and told this reporter they had no idea what was happening in the court case.
"The investigation is going on through the Special Task Force (and not the police). The thing is that the investigating body, which is the STF in this case, will be concerned with the matter in court. We do not know what proceedings are happening or not happening in court around this case. Please speak to and coordinate with Circle Officer Maanth, I do not have any other information," Kaushik added.
We then reached out to CO Maanth, Dharmendra Singh Chauhan, who said, "The investigating officer of the STF is responsible. Not anyone else."
After the calls made by this reporter, The Quint has learnt from reliable sources that there was some movement to provide one charge sheet to one accused (of the eight).
However, Dutt confirmed that no charge sheet had been received. Additional district government counsel, Suryavir Singh, also confirmed that although there was some movement, the lawyers of the accused had not received it yet. "Either way, movement or not, nothing explains this over a 100-day delay. This movement is coming too late and at the cost of a free and fair trial," Dutt said.
What is The Case About?
The UP Police Special Task Force has accused eight men of a 'very determined design to create caste divide and disturb the law and order situation'.
Of the eight accused, four men, Siddique Kappan, Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam, were booked by UP police on 5 October, 2020 on their way to the Dalit victim’s home in west UP. The police claimed that acting on a tip, they had intercepted their car at a toll plaza.
Of the remaining four accused, Rauf Sharif, Firoze and Ansad Badruddin, were arrested later, while another accused, Danish, has not been arrested as he moved Allahabad HC against coercive action.
They have been charged under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295 A (deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), 124 A (sedition) of the IPC, 65 and 72 of the IT Act and 17 (punishment for raising funds for a terrorist act) and 18 (punishment for conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The men have maintained their innocence and said they were on their way as journalists to report on the matter or as activists to sympathise with the victim's family.