The Allahabad High Court has taken suo moto cognizance of the Hathras gang rape case involving a gruesome rape and murder of a 19 year old girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh while terming it as an “extremely sensitive” matter, touching upon the basic human rights of the citizens.
The court aims to determine the violation of the Right to decent and dignified last rites/cremation after reports surfaced where forced cremation of the victim’s body without the approval of her family members have been suggested.
Background of the Hathras gang rape case
The incident took place on September 14. According to the victim’s family, she was working in a field along with her mother and brother, plucking grass. Her brother returned home with a bundle of grass while she remained in the field with her mother.
The mother and daughter were at some distance in the field. The mother realised after some time that the victim was missing. She went looking for her and found her in an unconscious state.
The family said four to five people attacked her from behind, gagged her with her dupatta and dragged her to a bajra field where they gang raped her. Her neck was grievously injured.
The 19-year-old victim died on Tuesday in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital two weeks after she was gang raped and tortured. She had suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a gash in her tongue in the horrific assault. The victim’s body was cremated by the police on September 29 wherein it has been alleged that the victim’s family was not even allowed to cremate her body but was instead, locked up in their home during the cremation.
Allahabad High Court’s Suo Moto Cognizance of the Hathras gang rape case
Terming the incidents which took place after the death of the victim on 29.09.2020 leading up to her cremation, as one which has shocked the court’s conscience,the Bench of Justices Jaspreet Singh and Rajan Roy of Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court have taken suo moto cognizance of the Hathras gang rape matter.
“we direct the Senior Registrar of this Court at Lucknow to register a suo moto Public Interest Litigation with the title “In Re : Right to decent and dignified last rites/cremation” and place it before the appropriate Bench having jurisdiction to hear PILs” – HC ordered
The court has issued notices to the State of U.P. through Additional Chief Secretary (Home), the Director General of Police, U.P., Lucknow, Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, U.P., Lucknow, District Magistrate, Hathras, Superintendent of Police, Hathras, and has asked them to be present before the Court on the next date of hearing, October 12.
On the date of hearing, the court intends to hear the government authorities’ version of the Hathras gang rape case which are to be sufficiently backed by requisite material and will be taking note of the status of the investigation relating to the gang rape case.
The victim’s family is also to be present to present their case. To this end, the State Authorities have been directed to ensure that no coercion, influence or pressure is exerted upon the family members of the deceased in any manner, by anyone.
Points of consideration
It has been alleged that the victim’s family was not even allowed to cremate the voctim’s body but was instead, locked up in their home during cremation in the wee hours on September 29.
The Court noted that the victim’s body was taken to her native village but “surprisingly and painfully enough” it was not handed over to her family members for last rites as per prevalent customs and religious inclinations. Rather, it is alleged that her body was cremated “with the help of some other persons.“
Statements by the Court on Hathras gang rape case
“the cremation took place at about 2:00 – 2:30 AM and from the aforesaid reports and news items what comes out is that the family of the deceased victim followed Hindu traditions, according to which, last rites are not performed after sunset and before 3 day break.“
“The newspaper reports and the electronic media program/video clippings show that the family members kept demanding for the body and also informed the authorities that as per traditions followed by them, cremation cannot take place after sunset and before day break, yet, the District Authorities got the cremation performed, contrary to the traditions which the family followed.“
If the reports are true, then it would be a “gross violation of basic human and fundamental rights” enshrined under Article 21 and Article 25 of the Constitution of India “in a most blatant and uncalled for manner, something which is absolutely unacceptable in our country governed by Rule of Law and the Constitution.“
“The rights of individual citizens in the Country and the State especially that of the poor and the downtrodden such as the family members of the deceased victim and the deceased herself are paramount and the Courts of Law are under a bounden duty to see that the said rights available under the Constitution are protected at all costs and the State does not in its misplaced endeavour for political or administrative reasons transgress the limits of its powers to encroach and violate such rights, especially in the case of poor and the weak,“
“We are inclined to examine as to whether there has been gross violation of the fundamental rights of the deceased victim and the family members of the victim; whether the State Authorities have acted oppressively high handedly and illegally to violate such rights as if it is found to be so, then, this would be a case where accountability will not only have to be fixed but for future guidance also stern action would be required,” the Court said.