02 Oct 2020: Top UP officials served summons over Hathras gang-rape, hurried cremation
The Allahabad High Court on Thursday summoned senior officials of the Uttar Pradesh administration and high-ranked police officers in connection to the Hathras gang-rape incident and the hurried cremation of the 19-year-old Dalit victim.
A two-judge bench took suo motu cognizance of the matter and asked officials, and the victim's family to be present on October 12, for it to understand both versions.
Statement: Court said the events after victim's demise were unsettling
The Lucknow bench, comprising Justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet, noted that all four accused have been arrested, and an SIT formed, but the events are shocking.
"The incidents which took place after the death of the victim on 29.09.2020 leading up to her cremation, as alleged, have shocked our conscience, therefore, we are taking suo moto cognizance of the same," the court said.
Fact: Was treated with brutality in life, suffered after death: HC
"As it is, the deceased victim was treated with extreme brutality by the perpetrators of the crime, and what is alleged to have happened thereafter, if true, amounts to perpetuating the misery of the family and rubbing salt in their wounds," said the bench.
Details: A media report listing police's conduct caught HC's attention
The bench added it took note of an Indian Express report dated October 1, which highlighted that UP Police was out in full force on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday, during her forced cremation.
Pleas of the family to take her home one final time were spurned.
They were not even informed when the body was released from Safdarjung Hospital, IE added.
Questions: "Was victim's family treated poorly because of their status?"
HC also said that the cremation in the dead of the night was not as per Hindu rituals which prohibits last rites after sunset.
The judges said they would like to examine "whether the economic and social status of the deceased's family has been taken advantage of by the state authorities to oppress and deprive them of their Constitutional rights."
Summons: DGP, Hathras DM, SP summoned; Priyanka welcomed move
Those who have been issued summons are Additional Chief Secretary/Principal Secretary (Home), the DGP, Additional Director General (Law and Order), the Hathras District Magistrate, and Superintendent of Police. A report has also been sought from Hathras District Judge.
On the HC's move, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was briefly detained by UP Police on way to Hathras yesterday, said it is "encouraging."
Fact: "The entire nation is seeking justice for the victim"
Video: Separately, in a clip DM was seen threatening victim's father
The administration's despicable conduct was, shockingly, not just limited to ineffective handling of the case and undignified cremation of the victim, as the family was threatened even after the woman's death.
In a video, that has gone viral, District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar was heard telling her father that media will "go after a few days, but they'll remain."
Fact: "Up to you if you want to change statement"
"Do not finish your credibility. These media people... some left today and tomorrow more will leave. Only we will be here with you. Ok? It is up to you whether you want to change your statement or not. We can also change," Laxkar purportedly said.
Fact: The viral clip can be viewed here
Investigation: Forensic report claims no sperm found, said top cop
Moreover, top cops in UP are also negating rape claims, despite the victim stating the same in her statement recorded days after the rape on September 14.
"Today we have received the report of [forensic laboratory] FSL which clearly says that there is no sperm or any other stain which is available on the sample which was collected," police officer Prashant Kumar told NDTV.
Fact: Now, IO will assess evidence, arrive at conclusion
Adding that the police always believed the victim's version and that she spoke about rape only days later, Kumar stated, "Now, investigating officer is duty-bound to consider all the evidence available and reach on some conclusion."