Expressing strong displeasure over the handling of the Unnao rape case and a road accident last Sunday which left the 19-year-old victim and her lawyer critically injured and her two aunts dead, the Supreme Court Thursday transferred all cases related to the matter from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, while ordering interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the victim and CRPF security cover for her, the family and their lawyer.
BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who represents Bangarmau in the UP Assembly, is the accused in the rape case and has been booked for murder in the accident case.
The bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose transferred the cases to the court of Tis Hazari district judge Dharmesh Sharma. The bench directed that “the trial judge…will commence the trial forthwith on a day-to-day basis and will ensure completion of trial of all the five cases within 45 days from commencement of the trial”.
It asked the CBI to “expedite” the probe into the accident case and complete it “preferably” within seven days and not later than 14 days.
In line with the court direction, the Lucknow District Magistrate and SSP handed a cheque of Rs 25 lakh to the victim’s mother Thursday night.
The judges also sought the views of the victim’s family to decide whether she should be moved from the Lucknow hospital where she is admitted to some other hospital in the country for advanced treatment.
In Lucknow, a cousin of the rape victim told The Indian Express the family would want her treated in Delhi. “It has been four days and she has not opened her eyes. She has not gained consciousness even once.”
Maintaining that the family has full faith in the CBI, the cousin said they had been demanding that the cases be transferred to Delhi. “We welcome the decision and thank the Supreme Court. We will accept all the instructions because we do not feel safe in Uttar Pradesh. We don’t think we will get justice here after what our family and the lawyer have been through. This is the first step towards our victory,” the cousin said.
The Supreme Court directions came two days after it emerged that the victim’s family had written to the CJI on July 12, seeking the court’s intervention and complaining about the threats being issued to them.
Directing the UP government to pay the interim compensation to the victim, the CJI made evident his displeasure at the state of affairs. When a court official sought to draw the bench’s attention to what the statute says on award of compensation, the CJI Gogoi asked if what had happened was as per law. “What is happening in this country? And you want the court to follow the letter of the law?… What is this? We will be failing in our duty if we don’t award compensation.”
The cases ordered to be transferred include four cases pending trial before the CBI Special Court in Lucknow and last Sunday’s road accident case.
Appearing for the CBI, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought a month’s time to complete the investigation, saying scientific examination may take time. But the bench was unwilling to grant the request. It said it would give the agency seven days. “Whatever you have to do, complete within that time,” the CJI remarked. Later, while dictating the order, the bench said if there is any difficulty, the agency may avail one week extra but no more.
Senior advocate V Giri, assisting the bench as amicus curiae in a pending matter of expediting POCSO cases, told the bench that the family apprehended danger to their lives and should be provided protection. Almost in tears, he also sought security for their lawyer, and suggested protection by central forces. The bench agreed and ordered CRPF cover.
Advocate Ramkrishna Reddy, appearing for the family, urged the court to also transfer the woman’s uncle from a jail in Rae Bareli to Tihar jail in Delhi, saying he feared for his life — his wife died in the Sunday road accident. On this, the bench sought a report from the UP government and said it will consider it Friday.
Earlier in the day, the bench sought to know the medical status of the woman to decide if she should be moved to Delhi in an air ambulance. Breaking for lunch, the bench asked the Solicitor General to inform it about her status once it reassembles.
Mehta later told the bench that the victim was at King George’s Medical University hospital and was medically fit to be moved if she and the family agreed. He said it may not be necessary as the Lucknow hospital has all facilities.
The bench then asked advocates Reddy and Giri to take instructions from the family. When Reddy said she should be shifted, the CJI told him: “Don’t take a call on you own. Consult family.”
On the family’s July 12 letter to the CJI — it was received by the Supreme Court Registry on July 17 — the CJI sought a report from Secretary General Sanjeev S Kalgaonkar on why the letter was “lying unattended” until July 30.
The bench asked the Secretary General to hold an inquiry if there was any lapse by a Registry official in processing the letter and placing it before the CJI.
In the morning, while taking up the Unnao matter, the bench told the Solicitor General that a “responsible officer” of the CBI should brief it by noon on the status of the investigations. After speaking to the CBI Director, Mehta told the bench that the probe officials were out of town in connection with the case and the documents could be produced latest by evening. He suggested that the matter be taken up first on Friday morning.
But the bench did not agree and said the Director could collect information over phone. On the court’s direction, CBI Joint Director Sampat Meena appeared before the bench and briefed it on the status of all five cases.
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