‘Hurried’ cremation was violation of fundamental rights: HC

Lucknow, Oct 13 : The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has said that the ‘hurried cremation of the woman victim was in gross violation of fundamental and human rights. It was done in the late hours of the night, without following proper rituals and without handing over the corpse to the family of the deceased.

The court, in its detailed order issued on Tuesday after the hearing on Monday, said that the larger issue which this incident raises impacts such rights of other residents of the entire state of Uttar Pradesh.

The court, referring to certain precedents, observed that right to dignity and fair treatment enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is not only available to a living person, but also to his/her body after death.

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The court order said that “no one should indulge in character assassination of the victim just as the accused should not be pronounced guilty before a fair trial.”

The court, which took up the matter suo motu, is hearing the account of the government and the family of the 20-year-old Hathras woman who died last month after brutal torture and alleged gang rape.

The order said that though the administration may not have categorically refused the family members to see the face of the deceased but the fact remains that it was not shown to any of them in spite of their repeated requests. Thus, the expanded fundamental right to life to live with dignity and to exist with dignity even after death as well as right to decent burial/cremation appears to have been infringed, hurting the sentiments of not only the family members but of all persons and relatives assembled on the spot.

The order pointed out, “Thus, one of the crucial issues that springs up for our consideration, apart from criminality which is under investigation by the police/CBI for the purposes of trial, is whether the hasty cremation of the dead body of the victim in the odd hours of the night without revealing her face to the family members and allowing them to undertake the necessary rituals in the absence of their consent and presence would amount to denying decent cremation in gross violation of her fundamental/human rights as enshrined under Articles 21 and 25 of the Constitution of India. If so, who is responsible for the same so as to fix their accountability and liability and how the family of the victim be compensated for it.”

It said, “The anxiety of the court as of now is on two counts; firstly, whether there was any violation of fundamental rights of the deceased victim and her family; and secondly, the larger issues involved in the context of such rights which are generally available to all residents of the state and even beyond it so that valuable constitutional rights are not compromised casually and whimsically.”

The court directed the additional chief secretary (Home) to come out with a draft policy by the next date of hearing on both the points, referred to above, so that proper guidelines in that regard may be laid down to avoid incidents of this kind in the future.

The court directed the state administration to ensure the safety and security of the family members of the victim.

It said that the inquiry/investigation which is being carried out in the matter, either by the SIT or by any other agency such as the CBI, be kept in full confidentially and no report or post thereof is leaked out in the public.

No officer who is not directly connected with the investigation should make any statement in public regarding commission of the offence alleged or otherwise, based on evidence collected as it can lead to unnecessary speculation and confusion amongst the masses.

The court asked the then Superintendent of Police Hathras, Vikrant Vir who is now under suspension, to appear on the next date (November 2).


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