How are family members in Hathras case being protected: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh government how the family members and the witnesses in the alleged gang-rape and murder case of a 19-year-old Dalit girl from Hathras are being protected.

A bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, also asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Uttar Pradesh government to ascertain whether the victim’s family has chosen any lawyer.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that protection has already been provided to the family members of the victim. “We are not taking any adversarial view on the plea. Witnesses are already under protection. Various narratives going about outside though everyone here in bona fide capacity,” Mehta submitted.

Mehta said that the supervision of this court is important for ruling the narratives out. “For lawyer for the victim’s family, let’s not impose the lawyer on them,” he said. Following that, CJI Bobde asked Mehta whether the Witness Protection Act is in force.

“We want an affidavit on how the witnesses are being protected and we want you to ascertain whether the victim’s family has chosen any lawyer. We want a suggestion what’s the scope of Allahabad High Court proceedings and how can we widen that,” the bench said adjourning the hearing in the matter for next week.

The apex court was hearing public interest litigation (PIL) filed by social activist Satyama Dubey seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Special Investigation Team (SIT), monitored by a sitting or retired Supreme Court or High Court Judge.

Mehta said that he is not opposing the plea for a CBI probe in the matter. “The investigation should be impartial. We have recommended CBI enquiry also. We request to the probe should be supervised by this court. There are various narratives in the media,” he added.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, an intervener in the matter, said “we don’t want to interfere with the Allahabad High Court as it’s already seized of the matter in the issue relating to the cremation of the body of the victim.” “This case should be transferred to a Delhi court from Uttar Pradesh and at this moment the protection of the family is utmost important,” Jaising said.
CJI Bobde said that the court is hearing the matter because the incident is shocking.

“This is shocking and we are understanding you, we don’t know you have a locus. The incident is shocking and extraordinary… We are not denying this. We are talking about invoking our jurisdiction… We are saying whether you have a locus,” CJI Bobde told Jaising.

Advocate Kirti Singh, who had written a letter to the Chief Justice of India on the Hathras case, sought the supervision of the Supreme Court in the case. “We are 100 women lawyers working on rape issues and we are concerned about this. We wrote the letter to the Supreme Court. We would like the supervision of the court in this case. While there may not be legitimacy as being the petitioner’s family but we are pained,” Kirti said.

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CJI Bobde said that there is no need to duplicate concerns in the court of law. “Please understand our point of view that there is no need to duplicate concerns in the court of law. It’s a horrible incident,” he said.

Jaising argued that the family members of the victims should be protected under the Witness Protection Act. “We don’t want any outside lawyers, we want advocates from the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

“Why only from the NALSA, we will appoint a good lawyer. Give the name of one junior and one senior lawyer,” the CJI said.

Earlier today, the Uttar Pradesh government filed an affidavit seeking directions for a court-monitored CBI probe into the Hathras case. It also submitted that cremation of the Hathras victim was performed to maintain law and order in the area and avoid large-scale violence.

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The 19-year-old Hathras woman had succumbed to brutal assault injuries in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital last month. The post-mortem report said that the victim suffered a fracture of “cervical vertebra”. Police have claimed the forensic report has revealed that the woman was not raped.

There has been huge outrage by the opposition parties and civil society after videos surfaced, purportedly showing the administration cremating the body without the presence of the family members.

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