Calling the Hathras incident “horrible… extraordinary and shocking”, the Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh government if witnesses in the case of the alleged rape and murder of a 19-year-old had been provided protection and if the family of the victim had a lawyer.
The state government, on its part, urged the Supreme Court to supervise the probe into the incident.
The bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, hearing a writ petition seeking a probe by the CBI or a court-appointed Special Investigation Team, said it wanted to hear from the parties on the scope of the proceedings in the matter already before the Allahabad High Court and “how we can make them more relevant”.
On October 1, the Allahabad High Court, taking suo motu cognizance of the case and the hurried cremation of the victim’s body, ordered senior officers of the state government and police to be present at the next hearing on October 12.
The High Court bench of Justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh said the officers must brief it on the status of the investigation in the case and explain the sequence of events that led to the cremation and the family’s complaint about the manner in which it was done.
The petition in the Supreme Court was filed by activist Satyama Dubey and advocates Vishal Thakre and Rudra Pratap Yadav.
“There is no doubt that this is shocking,” the CJI remarked when Dubey’s lawyer referred to the incident and said it had shocked the petitioner.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for lawyers who had expressed concern over the incident, said the matter should be transferred to Delhi and the family granted witness protection.
Intervening, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for UP, said the witnesses were already under police protection. Asked by the CJI to place this on record, Mehta said he would file an affidavit by Thursday.
The CJI said “the incident is extraordinary and shocking”. He said this was why the bench was hearing the intervenors though it was not sure if they had any locus in this criminal case.
Mehta told the bench that the state was not opposing the petition. “We are not opposing this”, he said, adding “there are narratives and narratives, but the sad truth is that a young girl has lost her life… let us not sensationalise”.
Mehta said people and political parties were providing their own narratives and urged the court to monitor the probe.
He said “supervision of this Court is important for ruling out” the different narratives.
Sunday Story | Looking for a 19-year-old
To back his argument, Mehta said a voice clip appeared to suggest that a reporter was instigating the family of the victim to put forth a specific account.
The bench took exception to multiple applications being filed in the same matter and said, “please understand that there is no need to duplicate concerns in the court of law”.
The CJI said “please understand that we are in no way condoning the incident. It is a horrible incident but the question is how many similar arguments should we hear? … Court need not hear the same argument by different parties”. He clarified that “this is not a comment on the incident”.
The Allahabad High Court, the CJI said, is a Constitutional court already seized of the matter. He said the Supreme Court “will ensure the investigation part is smooth”.