The bench of Justice Pankaj Mittal and Justice Ranjan Roy heard the depositions of the victim’s family members and top UP government officials who were summoned by the court while taking suo motu cognisance of the incident, in which the alleged rape victim was hurriedly cremated by police after September 29 midnight.
Hathras DM Praveen Kumar Laxkar, who also appeared before the court, took full responsibility of the cremation. He told the court that there was no pressure from the government and it was the decision of the local administration keeping in mind the law and order situation and also because the body was decomposing.
The division bench took up the case around 2.20pm and concluded the hearing by 4pm and posted the next hearing on November 2. The bench, however, did not dictate any order immediately and said that it would write it in the chamber. The copy of the order, however, was not uploaded on the high court’s website till late night.
When the court asked the victim’s family, during the course of their deposition, if they had a lawyer, they pointed towards advocate Seema Kushwaha, who had also represented Nirbhaya’s family in Delhi.
Kushwaha requested the court to transfer the probe to the CBI and the trial to Delhi. Additional advocate general VK Sahi informed the court that the probe had already been transferred to the CBI.
Talking to reporters after the hearing, Kushwaha said that the family had told the bench that their consent had not been taken before cremating the girl. “We have also requested that the family should be provided security cover till the trial is completed, regardless of whether the case goes to Supreme Court,” she said.
Earlier, security was tightened around the HC premises since Monday morning. The family members were brought to the court around 1pm under tight security. Though the HC is taking up cases through video conferencing nowadays, it had decided to take up this case through physical hearing.
Additional chief secretary (home), DGP, ADG (law and order), Hathras DM and SP categorically stressed that the cremation was conducted in the night due to law and order issues. The DM said that there was no instruction or pressure from state authorities in Lucknow regarding the cremation.
He said that it was an independent decision of the local police and administration and the victim’s family had been taken into confidence. Appearing for the state government, Sahi argued that the administration had acted in a bona fide manner.
In the course of hearing, senior advocate JN Mathur, who had been appointed amicus curie by the HC, pleaded that every citizen has a right to be cremated with dignity and as per his or her religious rites by family members under Article 25 of the Constitution.
The bench had taken suo motu notice of the issue on October 1, 2020 and registered the case as a PIL titled “Right to decent and dignified last rites”. It had expressed concern over the manner of cremation of the Hathras victim and summoned top government officials and the family to narrate the facts of the incident.