Hathras Case: PIL Seeks Action Against Government Officials for 'Destroying Evidence'

The petitioner said he was compelled to file the PIL after some "glaring facts" were revealed regarding the state's "support" for manipulating and destroying evidence in the Hathras case.

New Delhi: A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court against government officials involved in the destruction of evidence in the Hathras case.

The plea, filed by activist Chetan Janardhan Kamble, sought the issuance of directions to register offences against the staff of JN Medical College, AMU, Aligarh and Bagala Joint District Hospital, Hathras and other government officials who were involved” in “destroying evidence” related to the case.

The dead body of the 19-year-old Dalit woman, who was allegedly raped by four Thakur men, was hastily cremated by the police, allegedly without her family’s consent.

The plea seeks charges to be invoked under sections 166-A (punishment for non-recording of information), 193 (punishment for false evidence), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of the Indian Penal Code among others, and offences under section 3 (2) and 4 of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against the government officials involved in the destruction of evidence.

The petitioner said he is “constrained” to prefer the present criminal writ petition in the form of a PIL after some “glaring facts” were revealed regarding the state’s support for manipulating and destroying evidence in the Hathras case, in a petition filed by social activist Satyama Dubey in the Supreme Court.

In the plea, it is averred that the medico-legal examinations for ruling out sexual assault were not conducted immediately after the incident, especially when the undergarments were blood stained and the clothes of the girl were torn.

The Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped and assaulted on September 14, and succumbed to her injuries at New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on September 29. On October 1, UP ADGP (law and order) Prashant Kumar claimed that the woman was not raped, citing a report by the forensic science laboratory in Agra.

Also read: Backstory: The Hathras Gangrape and Four Media Challenges

This report was based on samples collected eleven days after the alleged rape took place, according to Azeem Malik, CMO of Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU’s) Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College. However, government guidelines strictly say forensic evidence can only be found up to 96 hours after the incident.

This reflects the complicity of certain UP state police and officials in the government machinery in manipulation and destruction of evidence and shielding the accused in respect of the subject crime, the plea filed by Kamble said.

The plea also pointed to the fact that certain state officials like the district magistrate of the area were seen openly threatening the family victims. “All this clearly indicates a collective effort by the state machinery to coerce and intimidate the witnesses. It also shows the hostility that is being openly meted out to the public at large as could be seen from the facts that the village was completely cut off for two days to the outside world in order to ensure that there is no transparency,” the plea read.

In this context, the petitioner urged the top court to issue directions for conducting an investigation in the aforementioned offences by an independent special task force excluding the CBI and UP state Police appointed by and monitored by the court.

The plea also sought the issuance of directions by the apex court to the respondents to deposit all the evidence relevant in this investigation. Those include the video-recordings of the statements of the victim and her relatives on September 14 and 19, the medico-legal evidence collected at the time of conducting the autopsy by Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi, and grant protection to witnesses in the case and family members of the victim by the Central Reserve Police Force.