Supreme Court calls Hathras rape case ‘shocking, extraordinary’

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Amid allegations of pressure on family of Hathras rape case victim from various quarters, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh Government to file an affidavit spelling out if a witness protection plan was in place and if the family had hired an advocate.

A Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde — which took up a PIL on the case — adjourned the matter to next week after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the UP Government, said the affidavit will be filed by Thursday.

The top court said it will ensure that the probe into the case was smooth.

It also sought to know how the scope of the proceedings before the Allahabad High Court could be widened.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appears on behalf of the UP Government said, “I am not opposing CBI probe. But the unfortunate incident should not be sensationalised. I am only praying that this court should supervise the probe.”

“There are narratives and narratives that may impede a fair probe. Let this court monitor the probe,” said Mehta.

The state government has already recommended a CBI probe even as it denied that the 19-year-old Dalit woman was raped by four upper-caste men in Hathras on September 14.

The woman had died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital during treatment and her body was cremated at night near her home on September 30. Her family alleged the police forced them to hurriedly conduct her last rites – an allegation denied by police.

In its affidavit filed hours before the crucial hearing, the UP Government said political parties and a section of media were trying to give a communal and casteist colour to the rape incident.

The state government urged the top court to monitor the CBI probe into the case in a time-bound manner to ensure a free probe and rejection of false narratives.

The state alleged that “vested interests” were attempting to ascribe motive to derail a fair probe and asserted that there were no signs suggesting rape

Provisional medical report of JJ Medical Hospital Aligarh didn’t have prima facie findings of rape and FSL Agra too, in its final opinion ruled out rape, UP Government’s affidavit stated.

As senior advocate Indira Jaising appeared during the hearing, the CJI said, “We are hearing you because the incident is shocking and extraordinary. We are also appreciating your assistance but you may not have the locus. Let us hear the petitioners also.”

“Technically, even the petitioners may not have the locus. She wants trial to be shifted to Delhi, Jaising responded.

When the petitioner’s lawyer “We are shocked at the incident,” the CJI said, “Everyone is shocked… That’s okay but when a court asks you why are you here, you have to give different reasons. We understand your anxiety but it will be in your best interest if you keep quiet for a while.”

“This is a case of huge import. It is a horrible incident. But there is no need to duplicate the concerns,” CJI told an advocate who sought to argue on behalf of a woman’s lawyer group.

During the hearing, Jaising demanded witness protection and said NALSA should handle this case as soliciting was happening.

“Ms Jaising is asking for witness protection but many people don’t know that the witnesses are already under protection,” Mehta said.

“Why are you pressing on NALSA? CJI is the patron in chief of NALSA. We can appoint lawyers,” the CJI told Jaising.

It pointed out that the Solicitor General made a statement before the court that he was not treating this as an adversarial litigation. “Why don’t you all make your recommendations before him?” the Bench asked.

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