The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, which is hearing a PIL on Hathras incident in which a 19-year-old Dalit woman died after she was allegedly gangraped by four men belonging to upper castes, has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to explain how much time it would take to complete its investigation and file a status report on November 25, the next date of hearing.
On Monday, when the Bench of Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajan Roy was hearing the case — a copy of the order was uploaded on the High Court’s website on Thursday — it asked the government counsel whether it was “fair and reasonable” to allow Pravin Kumar Laxkar to continue as District Magistrate of Hathras considering that allegations of mishandling of the situation arising out of the incident took place on his watch.
“…. whether it was fair and reasonable to allow the District Magistrate to continue at Hathras during the pendency of the investigation as also these proceedings before us regarding illegal cremation etc. when he was in the thick of things; and would it not be appropriate to shift him elsewhere during the pendency of these proceedings without there being any stigma attached to such an action… and only to ensure fairness and transparency in the matter,” the court order read, adding that the suspended Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrat Veer in his affidavit to the court had stated that he and the District Magistrate (Kumar) had taken the decision to cremate the victim’s body in the night
“Vikrant Veer, the erstwhile Superintendent of Police (Hathras)… filed an affidavit. He made a statement that it is he and the District Magistrate had taken the decision to cremate the victim’s body in the night,” it added. According to the order, government counsel SV Raju has assured the court that he would convey it to the state government.
The government counsel also told the Bench that the process of preparing “an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), as ordered by this court on October 12, was on”. “A draft SOP had been prepared and shared with the amicus curiae. …As and when it is finalised, it would be placed before the court for its consideration,” stated the order.
The Bench had earlier said that the late-night cremation of the Hathras woman was a violation of human rights for which the responsibility should be fixed.
The court, meanwhile, directed the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which has been assigned the task of providing security to the victim’s family, to file an affidavit.
“Considering the fact that under the orders of the Supreme Court of India, it is the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) which is required to provide security to the family members of victim and witnesses in the criminal case, the Office/ Registry of this court is directed to implead the Director General, Central Reserve Police Force, New Delhi as an opposite party in these suo motu proceedings,” the Bench said, adding “a responsible CRPF officer should file an affidavit indicating the nature of security provided and measures taken for the victim’s family before the next date of the hearing.”
The 19-year-old Dalit woman died at a Delhi hospital a fortnight after she was allegedly gang-raped on September 14. She was cremated in the middle of the night in her village. Family members claimed that the cremation, which took place well past midnight, was without their consent and they were not allowed to bring home the body one last time.
The hurried cremation fuelled outrage over the incident and the High Court took suo motu cognizance of it.
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