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Published On: Mon, Oct 12th, 2020

‘What if it was a girl from a rich family? Would you have cremated her the same way?”: Court

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Hathras-12LUCKNOW: The family of the alleged gangrape and murder Hathras victim demanded in the high court hearing on Monday that the trial be shifted out of Uttar Pradesh and security be provided to it until the final conclusion of the case.
Until then, it said, the court should issue necessary directions to ensure the findings of the investigation are kept a secret.The court adjourned the hearing to November 2, when the state will submit its complete version.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court was conducting its first hearing in the case, for which it had itself filed an appeal, to examine whether the family’s economic and social status was taken advantage of by the state in deciding to cremate the victim in the dead of night, allegedly against the family’s wishes, thus stripping the victim of the fundamental right to dignified last rites.

Questions about financial and class divide were brought up today by the High Court in Uttar Pradesh, which was examining the conduct of the police in the Hathras case.
The huge public condemnation of the police move for a 2 am cremation of the 20-year-old who died after brutal torture and alleged gang rape while keeping her family locked up, had brought the case under the scanner of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.
The district administration and the police have claimed that the call to cremate the body the same night was taken in view of the law and order situation. The court today questioned if the case would have been treated differently had the girl, instead of belonging to a poor family, came from a rich one.
“The court asked the District Magistrate  ‘What if it was a girl from a rich family? Would you have cremated her the same way?” Seema Kushwaha, the counsel for the woman’s family, told media. District Magistrate Praveen Kumar, who was among the officials summoned by the court, had accepted responsibility for the post-midnight cremation.
The DM told the court that the decision to cremate the body in the night was taken due to the law and order considerations and there was no pressure from the state authorities. The woman’s father, mother and three brothers was brought to the court amid tight security from Hathras earlier in the day.
The court had summoned the Additional Chief Secretary, Home; the Director General of Police; ADG, Law and Order; and the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of Hathras to furnish the status report of investigation into the case.
The woman was allegedly raped by four upper caste men on September 14. She succumbed to severe assault injuries at a Delhi hospital a fortnight later, which was followed by a hushed up cremation at night, allegedly forced by the district administration.

The brutal injuries suffered by the woman and the administration’s move to cremate her body late at night triggered a massive outrage, resulting in a pitched political battle from Delhi to Hathras.

While taking up the case suo motu on October 1, the court had tagged the matter to be of “immense public importance” as it involves allegations of “high-handedness by the state authorities, resulting in violation of basic human and fundamental rights not only of the deceased victim but also her family members”.

The reference was to the police move to keep the family locked up, refuse to allow them to bring their daughter’s body home or give her last rites. The family had also objected to a night-time cremation, saying it was not allowed under religious laws.
The court, in this context, had quoted a Supreme Court Order of 1995, where it ruled that the Article 21 of the Constitution which gives “Right to life”, includes the “Right to dignity” which encompasses “fair treatment” to a dead body too.
Sources said the court is trying to determine three issues – whether there was violation of fundamental and human rights, whether the police followed Hindu rituals and whether it was done in a high handed and illegal manner. In case of wrongdoing, punishment will be given.
Additional Advocate General VK Shahi said they have also presented their views and in the next hearing, the court has summoned the Additional Director General (Law and Order) and the Special Secretary of the home department.
The woman, who belonged to Scheduled Castes, died on September 29 at a hospital in Delhi. The men accused in the case have denied all allegations. The forensic reports of the case – for which the samples were collected days after the alleged event – have negated rape.
The brutality with which she was treated and the subsequent police handling of the case, have triggered huge criticism of the Yogi Adityanath government.
(Bureau Report with Agency Inputs).

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