Can the powerful in the government make insensitive remarks about a rape victim and destroy her faith in the State's capacity to give her justice, the Supreme Court asked on Monday and stayed the CBI investigation into the brutal Bulandshahr gang rape case.
A Bench of the court pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government and Urban Development Minister and ruling Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, who called the crime a “ >political conspiracy ” against the Samajwadi Party government in the State.
“Why should people in power make such statements?” a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan asked.
“Should the State, the protector of citizens and responsible for law and order, allow these comments as they can potentially create distrust in the minds of victims as regards the fair investigation and, in a way, the entire system,” Justice Misra observed.
The Bench directed the State government to file its response within three weeks on a petition filed by the victimised family to transfer the case from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi. The family said their quest for fair justice suffered a rude shock by the insensitivities of the police and the “outrageous” comments of Mr. Khan at a press conference.
The court scheduled the case for hearing on September 27 and appointed senior advocate Fali Nariman as amicus curiae in the case. It chiefly wants to hear on the constitutional question whether high functionaries of the State can make statements in a case of rape, gang rape and murder, which have the “potential to create distrust on fair investigation”.
The court asked whether these men of authority can pass such comments and claim their right to freedom of speech and expression?
“Whether such comments [which are not meant for self protection] defeat the concept of constitutional compassion and also of constitutional sensitivity,” the Bench asked, framing the legal questions.
In an emotional appeal for justice, the victims, which include a mother and her 14-year-old daughter, recounted their story to the Supreme Court about their rape by a gang in front of the latter's father on the deserted National Highway 91 between Noida and Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh in the dead of the night of July 29.
The family, represented by advocate Kislay Pandey, said Mr. Khan's statement has “substantially outraged the modesty of the rape victims”, especially the minor daughter.
Arraigning the State of Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Khan, the State police chief and the Bulandshahr Senior Superintendent of Police as opposite parties in the case, the family accused them of causing “serious and substantive infringement of the fundamental rights of the petitioner [victims] to live a lawful life, right to equality before law and right to civil liberty”.
They have asked the court to direct the State to provide the minor victim “respectable and appropriate free of cost and safe educational arrangements” till the time they get justice. The family also wanted the State to pay them a compensation.