‘Shocked our conscience’: Allahabad High Court summons UP officials in Hathras gang-rape case
The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Thursday summoned top government and police officers of Uttar Pradesh to assess their handling of the Hathras gang-rape case. In an 11-page order that relied on reportage of the 19-year-old’s cremation past midnight, the high court said it is taking suo moto cognisance of the case since the alleged incidents which took place after the death of the victim on 29 September leading up to her creation “have shocked our conscience”.
Justices Jaspreet Singh and Rajan Roy also summoned the family members of the Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped on the night of September 14 and succumbed to the injuries later, on September 29 in Delhi. The judges ordered the state to ensure that “no coercion, influence or pressure is exerted upon the family members of the deceased in any manner, by anyone”.
The court has asked the state government to respond by October 12 when it will hear the officials and the woman’s family.
The judges referred to several media reports that echoed the family’s allegations that the UP police had hurriedly completed the cremation of the young woman, allegedly without the consent of her family to underline that a dead person must be respected by the state.
“The State must respect a dead person by allowing the body of the person to be treated with dignity and unless it is required for the purposes of establishing a crime to ascertain the cause of death and be subjected to postmortem or for any scientific investigation, medical education or to save the life of another person in accordance with law, the preservation of the dead body and disposal in accordance with human dignity,” it observed.
“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,” the court said.
If the reports are true, then it will be a case of “gross violation of basic human and fundamental rights,” the court noted.
“Death must be so beautiful...To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace,” the court said recalling Oscar wilde. “But in this case, the victim was treated with extreme brutality by the perpetrators of the crime and what is alleged to have happened thereafter, if true, amount to perpetuating the misery of the family and rubbing salt in their wounds,” it said.
After the incident led to a nationwide outrage, Uttar Pradesh assistant director general (law and order) Prashant Kumar denied that the body was cremated without the family’s consent. “They were present during the funeral. The body was putrefying. The victim died yesterday in Delhi. After the post-mortem, the funeral was conducted with the consent of the family members,” Kumar said on Wednesday.