Responding to an affidavit filed by the elder brother of the Hathras gang-rape and murder victim to stay the trial proceedings given the real and grave risk of a miscarriage of justice after he and his counsel were allegedly threatened in the courtroom of the Special Judge (SC/ST), Hathras, on March 5, the Allahabad High Court has asked the District Judge, Hathras, and the Inspector-General Central Reserve Police Force to look into the allegations and submit a report within 15 days.
After that, the two-judge Bench of Justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh said on Friday, “it would consider whether trial in question before the Special Judge (SC/ST), Hathras is required to be stayed and is to be transferred elsewhere in the exercise of powers under Section 407 of CrPc”.
The affidavit submitted by the victim’s brother on March 18 said that on March 5, when he, accompanied by his wife, and counsel Seema Kushawaha, went to the Special Court of B.D. Bharti to record prosecution evidence, an advocate named Tarun Hari Sharma stormed into the courtroom and charged towards him and his counsel, shouting and issuing threats. Mr. Sharma seemed to be under the influence of alcohol and he said that Ms. Kushwaha could not represent the victim’s family.
The affidavit further said a large mob, including lawyers, gathered inside the courtroom in order to threaten and intimidate the complainant and his counsel.
On account of fear for their life and security, the affidavit said, the prosecution witness could not depose properly. When the proceedings resumed, the affidavit stated, another advocate, Hari Sharma, who is said to be the father of Tarun Hari Sharma, entered the courtroom and issued threats. After this, the affidavit said, the Presiding Judge was forced to stop the proceedings, ask police personnel present in the court to provide security cover within court premises, and direct the Station House Officer (SHO), Kotwali to provide safe and secure passage to Ms. Kushwaha.
Anurag Singh, counsel of the Central Bureau of Investigation, informed the High Court that the investigating agency intended to file an application for transfer of trial from district Hathras to elsewhere within the State.
The Bench has asked that the CCTV footage, if any, of the incidents of March 5 should be preserved.
The High Court further provided that till the next date of listing, the trial court should conduct the proceedings in-camera in the letter and spirit of Section 327 CrPc. It also directed the District Judge to ensure the trial was conducted before the Court concerned in a free and fair manner, without any outside hindrance.
Notably, the affidavit has been filed after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition of the victim’s family to transfer the case out of Uttar Pradesh on March 12.
Munna Singh Pundhir, one of the lawyers of the accused, alleged it was “just a drama being created” to get the case transferred out of Hathras. “Tarun is the son of Mr. Sharma, who is also one of the advocates of the accused. If he was under the influence of alcohol, it could have been easily checked,” he said.
Superintendent of Police Vineet Jaiswal said he had no idea of the incident till the HC order came to light through media reports.
The matter has been listed for April 7 for the next hearing in the Allahabad High Court.