India

SC says it’ll ensure smooth probe into Hathras

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would ensure the investigation into alleged gang rape and the torture and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl by upper caste Hindus in Hathras would be conducted smoothly.

“We will ensure the investigation part is smooth”, Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, heading three-judge Bench, said.

Hathras gang rape | A long caste feud, a horrific crime, and a sudden cremation

The court ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to file an affidavit, to place it on record, that the witnesses in the case are protected.

“We want it on affidavit on how Hathras case witnesses are protected. We want you to ascertain whether the victim’s family has chosen a lawyer. We want to know the scope of the ongoing proceedings in the case before the Allahabad High Court and how we can widen and make it more relevant”, Chief Justice Bobde addressed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State government.

‘Horrible and shocking’

The Chief Justice said there was no doubt that what transpired with the victim was “horrible” and “shocking”.

There was no doubt that the case was “extraordinary”, the court said.

The court is hearing a petition filed by Satyam Dubey to transfer the case to the CBI or form a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

“We are not opposing the petition. But there is narrative after narrative about the incident in the public domain. A young innocent girl has lost her life, let us not sensationalise it. We want a fair and free investigation, we want the investigation to appear free and fair... Please ensure that the investigation is supervised by the Supreme Court”, Mr. Mehta conveyed the stand of the U.P. government.

An affidavit filed by the government said “false narratives gained momentum at the behest of vested interests”. There was a “criminal conspiracy to spread caste conflict and instigate violence”. “Vicious propaganda” was being spread by sections of the media with “oblique motives” and political interests. “Sections of political parties deliberately mislead the public to create communal disharmony”.

The affidavit noted that the government has already formed a SIT and even asked the Centre for a CBI probe into the case.

During the hearing, senior advocate Indira Jaising, seeking an intervention in the case, highlighted the manner in which the victim’s body was cremated in the dead of the night. She said 27 FIRs had been registered against protesters. It was necessary that the the stringent provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act were applied to the four accused persons.

Witness protection

Ms. Jaising highlighted the need for witness protection. “The situation there is very tense”, she submitted. The issue of transfer of the case was wholly within the jurisdiction of the apex court, she said.

Mr. Mehta said the witnesses were already under police protection. “Let us not sensationalise or politicise... I have said the different narratives outside can be stopped only by conducting a fair investigation”, he observed.

Chief Justice Bobde insisted, “But we want it on affidavit that witness protection is in force”.

The court, however, did not take “identical submissions” made mostly by persons wanting to intervene.

Chief Justice Bobde told them,“We are not saying anything about the incident. The incident is horrible, but how can we hear identical arguments? We are not saying you are busybodies, we are only saying a court of law need not hear same arguments by everybody”.


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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 3:10:57 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-says-itll-ensure-smooth-probe-into-hathras/article32782097.ece