Examine threats to Hathras case family and witnesses, orders court
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati took to social media to state that serious questions have been raised regarding the government’s handling of the Hathras rape victim. “The high court's consideration of new facts and the order of a probe into the threats to the witnesses has put the government in the dock again with people being forced to think how the aggrieved will get justice. Is the popular perception that criminals rule UP and that getting justice is extremely difficult, wrong?" Mayawati tweeted.
The Bahujan Samaj Party chief’s tweets were made in reference to a high court order dated March 19, asking the district judge, Hathras to make an inquiry into whether threats have been extended to the victim’s family, lawyers and witnesses.
On September 29, a 19-year-old girl who had been allegedly gang-raped succumbed to her injuries at New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital. Subsequently, the girl was cremated hurriedly at night by the local police and administration. On October 20, the Supreme Court passed an order by which all aspects of the matter were left open to be considered by the high court. This included the investigation conducted by the CBI and also the grievance regarding the illegal cremation. Thereafter, a chargesheet was filed by the CBI before the Special Judge, SC/ST Act at Hathras against the accused.
On March 5, at a hearing of the case when the witnesses were recording their statements, a lawyer stormed into the court, and charged towards the witness and the counsel for the complainant, Seema Kushwaha, shouting threats. A large mob, including lawyers, also entered the courtroom surrounding the witnesses and the lawyer threatening and intimidating them. The court then ordered police protection for Kushwaha till the border of Hathras so that she could leave safely.
On March 19, the next date of the trial, the brother of the victim who was to record his statement did not appear in court because of the threats extended to him.
The special court has taken note of this and ordered the district judge to “..send a report of the learned Presiding Officer, Special Court, SC/ST Act who is trying Sessions Trial No. 583 of 2020 as to the incidents which may have taken place in his presence in the courtroom or outside. The district judge shall, before preparing such a report, go through CCTV cameras, if any, installed in the court premises. The report shall be made available to the Senior Registrar of this court at Lucknow within 15 days who, in turn, shall place it on record of these proceedings.”
The Inspector General, Central Reserve Police Forces, Central Sector, Lucknow, is also to collect information in this regard from his personnel who are deployed to protect the victim’s family.
Based on these reports, the court will decide whether the trial is to be stayed and transferred to another court.
The court has also mandated that the trial shall be held in camera, and any person who is not involved in it trying to disturb the proceedings or threatening the life, liberty and property of the victim’s family and the witnesses shall be dealt with severely and also be held in contempt of court.