New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday said the Allahabad high court should be allowed to monitor the Hathras case in which a 19-year-old Dalit woman was brutally gang raped by her own admission and died of serious injuries.
The top court, which was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and several intervention pleas filed by activists and lawyers, was told that no fair trial was possible in Uttar Pradesh as the investigation has been botched up considerably.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, said, “Let the high court deal with it. We are here if there is any problem.”
Besides Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the hearing saw a battery of senior advocates like Harish Salve, Indira Jaising and Siddharth Luthra appearing for various parties.
When other lawyers expressed the wish to argue, the apex court said: “We don’t need the assistance of the whole world”.
The hearing also witnessed deliberations on the victim’s identity, on the fact that it should not be disclosed and that her family members and witnesses be given full protection.
The lawyer appearing for the victim’s family demanded that the proceedings of the case be shifted out of Uttar Pradesh to a court in the national capital.
The apprehension of not getting a fair trial in the state was also raised by Indira Jaising who also made submissions on witness protection.
Tushar Mehta referred to a recent affidavit filed by the Uttar Pradesh government which sought to offer details on the purported security provided to the victim’s family and witnesses in the case.
Referring to the compliance affidavit, Mehta said the victim’s family had informed that they had engaged a lawyer. While Mehta said that the victim’s family had also requested that the government advocate pursue the case on their behalf, it is also a fact that the family had filed a petition with the Allahabad high court, noting that the local administration was not allowing them to venture out of the house or meet people.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for DGP of Uttar Pradesh, said that a request has been made before the bench that CRPF should be deployed for security of witnesses.
“Whoever your lordships feel, can give protection,” Salve said, adding that it should not be construed to be any reflection on the state police.
Mehta said, “The state is completely non-partisan”.
During the hearing before the bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, advocate Seema Kushwaha, appearing for the victim’s family, said they want that after investigation, the trial be held in a court in Delhi.
She said that CBI should be asked to submit the status report of investigation directly in the apex court.
Mehta said factual position is that the state government had already said it has no objection and anybody can conduct the probe and CBI has taken over the investigation on October 10, 2020.
The law officer said that the victim’s identity should not be revealed in any manner as it is not permissible under the law.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, representing one of the intervenors, said the accused should not be heard at this stage.
She added, “We don’t expect a fair trial in the state of UP. The investigation has been botched up”.
“We want intensive monitoring of the case by a Constitutional court,” Jaising said, adding that a special public prosecutor should be appointed by the apex court in the case.
“We are not satisfied with the protection given to the victim’s family and witnesses by Uttar Pradesh. Let protection be given by CRPF as was done in Unnao case,” she said, adding, “It is the very government against whom the victim’s family have grievances”.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who appeared for one the accused, said that details of the case are all over in the media.
“You go to the jurisdictional high court,” the bench told Luthra.
The Solicitor General opposed one of the applications filed by an organisation which has sought to transfer the investigation in the Hathras incident to the CBI.
“The Supreme Court should direct that nobody should collect money in the name of the victim. We have seen this in the past. I oppose this IA,” Mehta said.
One of the intervenors argued that probe into the case should be conducted by a court-monitored special investigating team.