Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hathras atrocity: A blow to credibility

Prof. Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu,

(Former Central Information Commissioner)

On the 15th anniversary of Right to Information Act, 2005, the transparency suffered a severe set-back with CBI removing the FIR on gangrape in Hathras. A jolt to transparency and a blow to credibility of independence or objectivity of investigation. The nation doubted the objective investigation by UP Police, as one of its top officers declared that there was no rape at all and felt relieved when UP Government handed over the investigation to CBI. But to great surprise and shock of the people who demand rule of law and justice to victim of gang rape, the CBI has, just hours after posting an FIR and a press statement on taking over the investigation into the Hathras gang rape and murder of a Dalit woman, has removed the same from its website.

First step of CBI- hiding FIR

It was reported that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issued a notification authorising the CBI to investigate the case, and registered an FIR early on Sunday under Section 307 (Attempt to murder), 376(D) (Gang rape), and 302 (Murder) of IPC and Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. This case was originally registered as an attempt to murder a Dalit at the Chandpa police station in Hathras district on September 14. Most shockingly, neither the complaint nor the first FIR had made any mention of rape or gang rape. Protests all over the nation were growing and demand for in-depth investigation was gaining strength, after the 19-year-old victim succumbed to injuries in a Delhi hospital on September 29, triggering national outrage, political parties, and activists.

Significant part of report ignored

The Department of Forensic Medicine of the Aligarh Muslim University’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College & Hospital in its report said there were no signs suggestive of vaginal/anal intercourse. Police officer interpreted it to the advantage of criminals and preferred to ignore other part of the report which said there was evidence of assault with injuries on the body. Then the entire administration had hurriedly cremated the victim’s body on the night of September 29 allegedly without the consent of the aggrieved family. The dead body of a victim of gangrape, could serve as one of the most convincing evidences to establish guilt.

At the house of the victim, there are sixty security personnel deployed with eight closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed allegedly for the safety of the family members. Along with CCTV cameras, multiple LED bulbs, and two “shadows” for each member of the family to ensure that no movement of the family and no questions of the media could go unnoticed.

Superintendent of Police Vineet Jaiswal said a register of visitors is being maintained by policemen deployed at the entrance of the house. A female police constable holding a heavy register is asking visitors to submit their details.  This means the administration wants every information about the victim but does not want to give any information about FIR to the people.

A metal detector was also arranged in the outer courtyard, and a sprawling tent for housing policemen between their shifts, besides the narrow lane leading to the residence being lined with policemen.

Seema Kushwaha accompanie victim’s family

Ms Seema Kushwaha, a lawyer, is helping out the victim’s family. She is also, accompanying the four members of the family before the Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench on October 12. Referring to leak of the information by the investigators that there were some calls from her phone to accused, the lawyer said to a reporter “Even if the calls were made, did it give the accused the right to rape and kill the victim?” The lawyer was answering the new narrative broached from the side of killers about the honour killing. The advocate was very assertive when she pointed out that the victim’s first statement, made at the Chandpa police station on September 14, was enough to invoke sections of rape.  Under any circumstances the burning of the body of victim without family’s consent or involvement is not proper. It is not only inhuman but also a clear criminal act of removing important evidence. The district administration has put forward excuse of protection of law and order, which could be tackled by deploying more forces instead of burning away an important evidence of the gruesome crime.

The SP of Hathras, Vineet Jaiswal, claimed the police was “fair” in registering the FIR for violations of Section 144. “We have registered an FIR against a former BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) MLA for holding a panchayat at his residence. Rashtriya Swarn Parishad’s Pankaj Dhwajbhaiya has been warned that he would be arrested under Section 151 of the CrPC if he is seen in the area.” The SP wants the SIT probe to complete to give information about what material was used to light the pyre.

Uma Bharti’ appropriate response

It is not proper and reasonable for the UP Administration to deny the information or stop the media or leaders of different parties from reaching the victim’s family. It is appreciated that Ms. Uma Bharti, senior BJP leader has urged Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to allow media persons and leaders of political parties to meet the family of the deceased Hathras rape victim, in a series of tweets. “She (the victim) is a daughter of a Dalit family, and after her death her cremation was done hastily and now her family is being ring-fenced by officials. We have recently performed the bhoomipoojan (ground breaking ceremony) of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, and are working to establish Ram Rajya. The actions in Hathras will hurt the image of the party and the U.P. government,” she rightly said.

It is high time that the CBI should replace the FIR in public domain and also expected to give updates of the investigation including about the possible attempts of the powerful persons who obstruct them to save the criminals. If the CBI also fails, the people will lose faith in criminal justice and rule of law.

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.


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