Yesterday the Allahabad High Court at Lucknow heard the Suo Motu PIL in Hathras Matter. In pursuance of the earlier order of the High Court, the family members of Hathras Victim were produced before the Court.
First, Om Prakash, the father of the deceased, submitted his version. He stated that he was present in Safdarjung Hospital alongwith his younger son Sandeep when his daughter was under treatment.
He was informed on 29.9.2020 that she has died and her body is being taken for post-mortem. He had seen the body of her daughter before the post-mortem but thereafter the body was not handed over to him and was allegedly said to have been taken in an ambulance to the Village.
He was also provided a vehicle wherein he alongwith his son and ADM travelled to their Village Hathras. They had reached the village in the mid-night, much before the arrival of the dead body. At that time, 70-80 people were present in and around his house in the village.
He pleaded that he wants justice for her daughter. He had no grudge against the officials except that they refused to hand over the body of her daughter to them and they were not allowed to cremate her in accordance with the Hindu rituals.
He stated that neither he nor any member of the immediate family participated in the cremation and that the administration cremated the body in the night itself despite insistence on their part to have the cremation in the morning.
The mother of the deceased lamented that she wanted to see the face of her daughter, but she was not allowed and against her wishes, the body was cremated in the night. She broke down while narrating the entire story starting from the date of the incident when the girl was allegedly raped.
Brothers of the deceased mostly repeated the same story and submitted that the authorities acted in an highhanded manner in cremating the dead body of their deceased sister.
They kept on telling that they will be allowed to see the face of the deceased and that they will bring the dead body to their home, instead, when the dead body was brought to the village, it remained in the ambulance on the road near to their house for about an hour and then was taken straight to the cremation ground.
No one from the family participated in the cremation and the last rites were performed in their absence.
Smt. Sandhya, the bhabhi of the deceased was very sour and stated that the officers be-fooled the family and even some of them misbehaved with the relatives, who were present and had tried to stop the ambulance from proceeding to the cremation ground.
She was quite emotional and wanted that stiff action be taken against the officers for not handing over the dead body to the family members and cremating it in an highhanded manner in the dead of the night. She said they are not interested in compensation and the loss suffered by the family is irreparable.
Allahabad High Court Observed that we do not at this stage find any good reason on behalf of the administration as to why they could not hand over the body to the family members for some time, say for even half an hour, to enable them to perform their rituals at home and thereafter to cremate it either in the night or next day.
Admittedly, though the administration may not have categorically refused the family members to see the face of the deceased but the fact remains that it was not shown to any of them in spite of their repeated requests.
Thus, the expanded fundamental right to life to live with dignity and to exist with dignity even after death as well as right to decent burial/cremation appears to have been infringed hurting the sentiments of not only the family members but of all persons and relatives assembled on the spot.
Court showed its anxiety on two issues:
firstly, whether there was any violation of fundamental rights of the deceased- victim and her family; and
secondly, the larger issues involved in the context of such rights which are generally available to all residents of the State and even beyond it so that valuable constitutional rights are not compromised casually and whimsically.
- The Additional Chief Secretary (Home) directed to come out with a draft policy by the next date on both the points, referred to above, so that proper guidelines in that regard may be laid to avoid incidents of this kind in future.
- The State administration is directed to ensure the safety and security of the family members of the victim so that no harm is caused to them. It is further provided that the inquiry/investigation which is being carried-on in the matter, either by the S.I.T. or by any other agency such as CBI, be kept in full confidentially and no report or post thereof is leaked out in the public
Court has directed that no officer who is not directly connected with the investigation should make any statement in public regarding commission of the offence alleged or otherwise based on evidence collected as it can lead to unnecessary speculation and confusion amongst the masses, who may not be aware of niceties of law thereby fuelling emotions on both sides.
The Investigating Agency and the Courts are seized of the matter and irresponsible statements on the issue should be avoided by all.
Without in any manner intending to interfere with the right of freedom of expression, Court requested the media as also the political parties to air their views in a manner which does not disturb social harmony and/or infringe upon rights of the victim’s family and that of the accused.
Further the Court directed that no one should indulge in character assassination of the victim just as the accused should not be pronounced guilty before a fair trial. The investigating agency and the Courts should be allowed to determine these issues.
Court has directed that the matter be listed on 2.11.2020, on which date an Officer, not below the rank of Secretary, shall remain present on behalf of the State to assist the Court, along with the ADG (Law and Order), U.P., Lucknow.
Appearance of other officials on future dates is exempted, unless otherwise directed by the Court. The family members of the deceased need not appear personally as they are represented through Counsel.