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The Allahabad High Court has taken suo motu cognizance over the pre-dawn cremation of the 19-year old dalit woman who is stated to have been gangraped and mutilated before succumbing to her injuries in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras.
The order passed by a Bench of Justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh states,
"The incidents which took place after the death of the victim on 29.09.2020 leading up to her cremation, as alleged, have shocked our conscience, therefore, we are taking suo moto cognizance of the same."
The Court has taken serious note of reports indicating that the body of the victim was forcefully cremated without the consent of her family.
The High Court order states,
The Court adds,
As per reports, the victim's tongue was mutilated after the rape to prevent her from disclosing the identity of the perpetrators. After she succumbed to injuries weeks later, the media reported the police having forcefully conducted her cremation at around 2.30 am, before the day broke on September 30.
Media reports further informed that the family was prevented from seeing the victim, even as they begged the police not to cremate. The High Court notes that while the Police authorities later insisted that the cremation had been done with the family's consent, media interviews with the family of the victim suggested otherwise.
Disturbed by the reported sequence of events, the High Court points out that is settled that even the dead have a right to be treated with fairness and dignity, as laid down in cases such as Parmanand Katara v. Union of India, Ramji Singh @ Mujeeb Bhai v. State of UP and others and Pradeep Gandhy v. State of Maharashtra.
Given this position, the High Court has emphasised that if the allegations of forced cremation are found to be true,
"... it would be a case of gross violation of basic human and fundamental rights enshrined under Article 21 and Article 25 of the Constitution of India in a most blatant and uncalled for manner something which is absolutely unacceptable in our country governed by Rule of Law and the Constitution."
The Court adds that Article 25 of the Constitution would also be relevant in this case if the reports are true, since the family was prevented from performing the final religious rites for the victim before her cremation.
The Bench has also said that it will leave open the question of whether there is a necessity to monitor the investigation or to get the investigation done by an independent agency as per law.
The Court has directed the Senior Registrar the Court's Bench at Lucknow to register a suo motu Public Interest Litigation with the title In Re : Right to decent and dignified last rites/cremation and place it before the appropriate Bench having jurisdiction to hear Public Interest Litigations.
The matter has been listed to be taken up on October 12. The family members of the victim have also been directed to be present before the Court so that the Court can further ascertain the facts.
The following State functionaries have been summoned to put forth their version of the case with supporting material and to appraise the Court regarding the status of the investigation on the next hearing date:
The Additional Chief Secretary/Principal Secretary (Home),
Director-General of Police,
Additional Director General,
Hathras District Magistrate, and
Hathras Superintendent of Police.
In the meanwhile, the Court has specifically set out,
Senior Advocate Jaideep Narain Mathur and Advocate Abhinav Bhattacharya have been appointed as Amicus Curiae to assist the Court in the matter.
Read the order: