Hathras case: Supreme Court reserves order on plea for court-monitored probe
The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved orders on a petition seeking court-monitored investigation into the Hathras gang rape and murder and suggested the Allahabad high court supervise the investigation into the crime that occurred roughly a month ago and has roiled India since.
The top court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by activist Satyama Dubey and others, along with several interventions.
The 19-year-old Dalit victim’s family asked the court to shift the trial to Delhi after completion of investigation. Their lawyer Seema Kushwaha further demanded the Central Bureau of Investigation, which took over the probe on October 10, be asked to submit periodic status reports to the apex court.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who was representing the state government, informed the court that the state had accepted the demand for a court-monitored probe and had no objections to periodic reports being filed. The bench interrupted him and said when the matter was last heard on October 6, all lawyers consented to transfer the matter to the Allahabad high court.
“We are here as an ultimate supervisory authority. Let the Allahabad high court supervise investigation. Ultimately, we are here for any decision,” said the bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobe and comprising of justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who was representing interventions by women’s groups, did not yield to the suggestion. She pointed out the victim’s family had already requested the trial to be moved to Delhi, so the jurisdictional court could either be the Delhi high court or the Supreme Court.
Thursday’s hearing was crowded by other activists, women’s groups, Dalit organizations, upper caste groups, and the accused. The situation was such that the three-judge bench observed, “We have had enough of this. We do not need assistance of the whole world.”
Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing on behalf of one of the accused, Ramu alias Ramkumar, rued the fact that the investigation had become a media spectacle, affecting his right to a fair trial. Jaising objected to the accused being heard. The bench asked Luthra to approach the concerned court in UP with his request.
Mehta wondered how persons who were total “strangers” to the case could take part in the hearing when the state, the victim and the investigating agency were present. Senior advocate Harish Salve, who appeared for the UP director general of police (DGP), said, “Any order that the court may pass on providing of security to the witnesses, it should not reflect badly on the state police’s performance.”
One of the applications was by activist Teesta Setalvad who sought an inquiry not just into the incident but into the forced cremation of the victim. Objecting to Setalvad’s application, Mehta said, “Teesta Setalvad has nothing to do with this case. Nobody should collect money in the name of the victim. This application is not in good taste.”
The bench concluded the hearing saying, “We do not need any further complication. Judgment reserved.”
On Thursday, CBI officials questioned the family members of the four accused in the Hathras gang rape case on Thursday.
Investigators visited the village of the 19-year-old Dalit victim, who died in a Delhi hospital on September 29, a fortnight after she was gang raped and brutalised in Hathras.
Police threw a cordon of security around the homes of the four accused, identified as Sandeep Singh, Ravi, Ramu and Luvkush Sikarwar, who are all lodged in Aligarh jail.