Maharashtra based Dalit rights activist Chetan Janardhan Kamble said he was constrained to file the PIL after some glaring facts were revealed regarding “the state support for manipulating and destroying evidence in the Hathras gang-rape and murder case”, from the affidavit filed by the Uttar Pradesh government in the top court in another PIL.
“The issues regarding cover up in medical reports prepared by government hospitals and cremation of the body by the police personnel in the face of objections of the family of the victim in order to protect the accused persons, which were being speculated in media reports have now been revealed through the affidavit in reply and documents annexed thereto by the state of UP,” said the plea, which is likely to be taken up for hearing on October 15.
The PIL, filed through advocate Vipin Nair, said the incident has shocked the conscience of the society at large and “how the State machinery is using all efforts to ensure that the accused remain well-shielded, including manipulation and destruction of the evidence, for reasons best known to it”.
“The facts clearly indicate the involvement and complicity of certain UP State police and officials of the state government machinery in manipulation and destruction of evidence and shielding the accused in respect of the subject crime,” it said.
On October 6, terming as “shocking” and “horrible” the Hathras incident, the top court had said it would ensure a “smooth” investigation and sought Uttar Pradesh government’s reply on how the witnesses were being protected in the case in which a Dalit girl was allegedly brutally raped and died of injuries.
The Uttar Pradesh government, which earlier filed an affidavit in the case, urged the top court to order CBI probe into the incident saying an innocent life has been lost and the central agency may be ordered to conduct the probe under the supervision of the apex court itself.
The Centre has accepted the recommendation of UP government for CBI investigation in the case after which the probe agency has registered a fresh case.
The 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men in Hathras on September 14. She died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital during treatment. The victim was cremated in the dead of the night near her home on September 30.
Her family alleged they were forced by the local police to hurriedly conduct her last rites.
Local police officers, however, said the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”.
Several PILs and intervention applications have been filed by individuals, NGOs and lawyers in the top court seeking probe by an independent agency.
The fresh PIL further alleged that the government hospital at Aligarh did not vaginal swabs and body smears of the victim or collected drop sheet after change of clothes, despite finding torn clothes and bleeding on under-garments, and then waited for testing for semen till after eight days from the incident when no forensic evidence in that regard would be found.
It said “the very fact that even before investigation is complete, certain high-ranking police officials and government officials have ruled out possibility of rape, and made public statements regarding the same, indicates a clear nexus between the state police and the accused”.
The “bizarre and barbaric manner” in which the body of the victim was stealthily cremated in the dead of the night by the police officials’ smacks of them being involved in suppressing the crime rather than investigating it, it added.
“This unpardonable crime by the state police and other government instrumentality, which denied the family of the victim even the basic right to perform last rites on the body of the victim is nothing but depravity of the soul”, it said, adding no law and order problem could justify destruction of evidence.
The plea sought direction for probe of the case by independent special task force (STF) excluding the CBI and UP state police for offences under IPC and provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, against the police officials, hospital staff and medical officers and other government officials It said that the STF constituted should be of impeachable integrity and having experience of criminal investigation, to be appointed by and monitored by this Court.
The plea also sought direction to Centre and UP government to deposit all the evidence including the video-recordings of the statements of the victim and her relatives on September 14 and 19, as well as the medico-legal evidence collected at the time of conducting the autopsy by Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi for examination by an independent forensic laboratory for relevant markers.
It said that direction should also be issued for granting protection by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to the witnesses and members and relatives of the family of the victim, pending investigation and trial.