'Horrible, Extraordinary': SC On Hathras Case, Asks UP Govt To Protect Witnesses And Family

'Horrible, Extraordinary': SC On Hathras Case, Asks UP Govt To Protect Witnesses And FamilySupreme Court of India (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday (6 October) asked the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government if the state had provided adequate protection to witnesses in the case of gruesome gang-rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras, Hindustan Times reported.

Terming the incident horrible, shocking and extraordinary, the apex court asked the state government to file a affidavit on three aspects: how the family and witnesses are being protected; has the family chosen a lawyer to assist them in the matter and what is the scope of the Allahabad High Court proceedings and how could it widen its scope.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde was hearing a PIL filed by a social activist seeking CBI or SIT probe in the Hathras incident.

"We want to know from you whether the witness protection plan is in place. File an affidavit," CJI Bobde told solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who was representing the UP government.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, representing an intervenor in the matter, submitted before the bench that she does not want to interfere with the investigation and insisted on the transfer of the case from one state to another. She also cited that 27 FIRs have been lodged against several protesters in the matter and emphasised on providing witness protection.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, submitted that outside the courts, several narratives were being weaved, and this could come to an end by a monitoring and investigation by a central agency.

Mehta reiterated that the family has already been given police protection.

Jaising said justice can be done only by transferring the trial to Delhi and added that a judicial inquiry, under the supervision of a former judge is preferable.

“Things are being argued in the court without knowing the facts. Witnesses are being protected,” said Mehta.

After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court issued notices and adjourned it to next week for the state to file another affidavit on the three aspects.

A 19-year-old Dalit teenager was allegedly gang raped by four upper caste men and then reportedly dragged by the neck with her dupatta on a field in Hathras District's Bulghari village. The victim was partially paralysed and died after battling for 14 days. She was shifted from Aligarh hospital to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on 28 September.

She died on 29 September and was cremated at 3:00am on 30 September. The family has alleged coercion regarding the time and manner in which the cremation took place.

Petitioner’s lawyer said “We are shocked at the incident.”

The Chief Justice replied everyone is shocked, and queried the lawyer on his client’s locus in the matter. “When a court asks you why are you here, you have to give different reasons…we understand your anxiety,” noted the bench.

(With inputs from IANS)