Questions regarding the protection of the family and witnesses in the case involving the torture and alleged gang rape of a 20-year-old woman from Hathras, came up before the Supreme Court today. Questioning what steps have been taken regarding this, the court issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government. The court also questioned if the family has access to a lawyer.
The petition, filed by social activist Satyama Dubey and others, had sought a Central Bureau of Investigation or a Special Investigation Team probe into the case that had evoked national outrage.
Calling for a “fair” investigation, the petition also pointed to the role of the Uttar Pradesh Police, which has come under fire for its alleged laxity in handling of the case, its secretive 2.30 am cremation of the body and face-offs with opposition leaders who tried to visit the family.
The court questioned the women’s group why they had not approached the Allahabad High Court.
When their lawyer Kirti Singh said they want a transfer of the case, which is already pending in the Allahabad High Court, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said, “The Allahabad High Court is hearing the case… we can have the views of the High Court… If the High Court commits error, then we are here”. The court also assured the petitioners that it would ensure a “smooth investigation” in the case.
“We want to know from all of you on what is the present scope of the Allahabad High Court’s proceedings,” said the court. Chief Justice Bobde also sought suggestions on widening the scope of the proceedings before the High Court.
In an affidavit to the court, the state government said the post-midnight cremation was meant to “to avoid large-scale violence” the next morning.
There were intelligence inputs about a “major law and order problem” in view of the Babri mosque verdict a day later and a high alert was declared in the district, the government said.
Pointing to the hurried, secretive cremation by the police, over-riding the wishes of the family and keeping them locked up inside their house had drawn opposition condemnation for the Yogi Adityanath government.
Many parties, including the Congress, have alleged that it was a “cover-up”.