Hathras Gang Rape| CRPF to provide security to the victim’s family & witnesses; SC says apprehensions are not without justification

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has, “in order to allay all apprehensions and only as a confidence building measure”, directed that the security to the victim’s family and the witnesses in the Hathras Gang Rape case shall be provided by the CRPF within a week.


BACKGROUND OF THE CASE


The case pertains to the brutal gang-rape and assault of a 19-year¬old girl, resident of Hathras village in Uttar Pradesh. Though she was shifted to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, she breathed her last and she was cremated in the middle of the night without the presence of her family members. Considering the manner in which the entire incident had taken place, the petitioners contended that a fair investigation would be possible only if the matter is entrusted to an independent agency.

It was prayed that

  1. if need arises, the case be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation or SIT be formed to investigate the matter.
  2. a sitting or retired Supreme Court Judge or High Court Judge be appointed to look into the matter.
  3. the case be transferred from Hathras, Uttar Pradesh to Delhi.

Concerns were also raised by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising with regard to the adequate protection being provided to the victim’s family members and the witnesses. An affidavit filed by the Home Department, Uttar Pradesh on October 14, 2020 regarding the same which stated:

  • The parents, two brothers, one sister¬in-law and grandmother of the victim who are residing at village Chandpa, District Hathras, Uttar Pradesh have been provided protection under a three-fold protection mechanism through

(a) Armed Constabulary Component,

(b) Civil Police Component and

(c) Installation of CCTV cameras/lights.

  • The investigation by the CBI would be conducted under the supervision of the Court in a time bound manner.

The Director General of Police, State of Uttar Pradesh also filed an affidavit indicating   that   the   State   Government   itself   has   sought investigation by the CBI to be conducted under the supervision of the Court and on 10.10.2020 the CBI accepted the request of the State and has started investigation in respect of the crime, on 11.10.2020.


WHAT THE SUPREME COURT SAID


On the apprehension that the Uttar Pradesh Police will not conduct a proper and fair investigation

Considering the abovementioned facts, the Court noticed that the undisputed fact is that the investigation has in fact been entrusted  by the State Government itself to the CBI on 10.10.2020 and the CBI has started investigation in respect of the crime on 11.10.2020. Therefore, the apprehensions expressed by the petitioners/applicants that there would be no proper investigation if the Uttar Pradesh Police conducted the same would not remain open for consideration at this stage.

On Supreme Court Monitored Investigation

The Court further noticed that the Allahabad High Court has adequately delved into the aspects relating to the case to secure fair investigation and has also secured the presence of the father, mother, brother and sister-in-law of the victim and appropriate orders are being passed, including securing reports from various quarters. Hence, the Court did not find it necessary “to divest the High Court of the proceedings and take upon this Court to monitor the proceedings/investigation.”

Further, the incident having occurred within the jurisdiction of that High Court and all particulars being  available, it would be appropriate for the High Court to proceed to monitor the investigation in the manner in which it would desire.

“In that view, it would be open for the writ petitioners/applicants herein to seek to intervene in the matter before the High Court subject to consideration of such request by the High Court and if it finds the need to take into consideration the contentions to be urged by the petitioners/applicants   in that regard.”

It hence, directed that the CBI shall report to the High Court in the  manner as would be directed by the High Court through its orders from time to time.

On security to the victim’s family and witnesses

The Court noticed that though steps have been taken by the State Government to make adequate arrangement for security to the victim’s family and witnesses, however, in a matter of the present nature it is necessary to address the normal perception and pessimism which cannot be said as being without justification. Hence,

“without casting any aspersions on the security personnel of the State Police; in order to allay all apprehensions and only as a confidence building measure, we find it appropriate to direct that the security to the victim’s family and the witnesses shall be provided by the CRPF within a week from today.”

On transfer of case to Delhi

As indicated by advocate Seema Kushwaha, appearing for the victim’s family indicated that the need   for transfer would arise after the investigation is complete, the Court said that

“… it would be appropriate for investigating agency to complete the investigation and in any event since the local police have been divested of the investigation and the CBI is carrying out the investigation there would be no room for apprehensions at this stage. However, the issue as to whether the trial of the case is to be transferred is a matter which is kept open to be considered if need arises in future.”

On the name and relationship of the family members with the victim being depicted in the High Court’s order

Since it is a requirement of law to avoid such disclosure, the Supreme Court requested the High Court to delete the same and also morph the same in the digital records and avoid indication of such contents in future.

[Satyama Dubey v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 874, decided on 27.10.2020]

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