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In view of the suo motu case registered by the Allahabad High Court over the pre-dawn cremation of a 19 year old Dalit woman alleged to have been gang-raped, Tehseen Poonawalla has written to the Lucknow Bench urging the Court to ensure the personal presence of police officers who were in charge on the day when the victim was cremated by the police.
This is in view of media reports that soon after the High Court's order registering the suo motu case on October 1, the Uttar Pradesh Government had ordered the suspension of senior police officers and the transfer of top government officials who had been directed to appear before the Court on October 12.
Pertinently, the High Court's order had directed the presence of these officials by rank and not name.
An apprehension that has been raised since is that the State's move to transfer or suspend officials may now see to it that officers who were in charge when the victim was cremated may not appear before the High Court.
In his October 5 letter, Poonawalla has also urged the Court to monitor the investigation into the case, noting that the Yogi Adityanath-Government has declared that it is referring the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Further, the Court has also been urged by Poonawalla to direct for the protection of the victim's family.
In its October 1 order, the High Court Bench of Justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh had, in fact, directed the State "to ensure that no coercion, influence or pressure is exerted upon the family members of the deceased in any manner, by anyone."
However, there have been media reports since the victim's family members faced pressure and were confined to their homes. As the outrage over the case gained momentum, it was also reported that the State government had restricted the media, activists and political leaders from meeting with the family of the victim.
Allegations have also surfaced that the family is being pressured to undergo the narco-analysis test.
Notably, the Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that no person can be forced to undergo narco-analysis or allied tests such as polygraph and brain mapping (popularly referred to as "lie-detector" tests) in Selvi v. State of Karnataka. The forcible administration of such tests violates the right to dignity and the right against self-incrimination, the top Court had ruled.
Further, the Court had ruled that even if a person consents to the administration of such tests, the "test results by themselves cannot be admitted as evidence because the subject does not exercise conscious control over the responses during the administration of the test."
While urging the Court to issue directions so that the investigating agencies do not put the victims' family under any pressure, Poonwalla has now also called on the Court to direct that the family is not made to undergo the narco-analysis test.
On October 1, the Allahabad High Court took suo motu cognizance over the matter, in which case the victim is stated to have been gang-raped and mutilated before succumbing to her injuries in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras.
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.