The Central Bureau of Investigation probe in Hathras case, in which a Dalit girl was allegedly brutally raped and died of injuries, is to be monitored by the Allahabad high court and the Central Reserve Police Force would provide security to the victim's family and witnesses in the case, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.
The issue of transferring the trial out of Uttar Pradesh would be considered if the need arises in future, apex court said, observing that all aspects of the matter are left open to be considered by the high court.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde noted in its verdict that Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court has taken note of Hathras incident and passed order directing registration of suo motu petition.
"From the order passed by the high court it is noticed that the high court has adequately delved into the aspects relating to the case to secure fair investigation and has also secured the presence of the father, mother, brother and sister-in-law of the victim and appropriate orders are being passed, including securing reports from various quarters," said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
"In that circumstance, we do not find it necessary to divest the high court of the proceedings and take upon this court to monitor the proceedings/ investigation," the bench said in its 16-page judgment.
The court delivered the verdict on a batch of pleas which have raised concern regarding the incident and also the manner in which victim was cremated.
The bench referred to the affidavit filed by the Uttar Pradesh government which gave details of security provided to victim's family members and witnesses.
"Having taken note of the contentions and having perused the affidavit filed on behalf of the state government we are convinced that steps have been taken by the state government to make adequate arrangement for security to the victim's family and witnesses," it said.
"However, in a matter of the present nature it is necessary to address the normal perception and pessimism which cannot be said as being without justification," the bench said.
"In that view, without casting any aspersions on the security personnel of the state police; in order to allay all apprehensions and only as a confidence building measure, we find it appropriate to direct that the security to the victim's family and the witnesses shall be provided by the CRPF within a week from today," it said.
The bench noted that contentions were urged before it but the undisputed fact is that investigation has been entrusted by the state itself to the CBI on October 10.
"Therefore, the apprehensions expressed by the petitioners/applicants that there would be no proper investigation if the Uttar Pradesh Police conducted the same would not remain open for consideration at this stage and the grievance to that extent stands redressed," it said.
It said the incident having occurred within the jurisdiction of high court and all particulars being available, it would be appropriate for the high court to proceed to monitor the investigation in the manner in which it would desire.
The bench said it would be open for petitioners to seek to intervene in the matter before the high court subject to consideration of such request by the high court.
"On the aspect relating to the investigation, since we have indicated that the high court would look into that aspect of the matter, the CBI shall report to the high court in the manner as would be directed by the high court through its orders from time to time," it said.
Dealing with the request for appointment of a special public prosecutor in the case, the bench said this aspect could be considered by high court in light of the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
"Therefore, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the rival contentions, all aspects of the matter are left open to be considered by the high court relating to the incident regarding which the investigation is to be conducted by the CBI and also with regard to the grievance put forth alleging illegal cremation," it said.
Regarding protection to the victim's family and witnesses, the bench said that Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh shall bring its order to the notice of competent officer of CRPF forthwith and the CRPF shall take steps in this regard.
The bench noted that insofar as transfer of case to Delhi as sought by the petitioners, the counsel appearing for victim's family had indicated that the need would arise after investigation is complete.
It also took note of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's submission about the name and relationship of family members with the victim being depicted in the October 12 order passed by high court.
"Since it is a requirement of law to avoid such disclosure, the high court is requested to delete the same and also morph the same in the digital records and avoid indication of such contents in future," the bench said while disposing of the pleas.
A 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four men in Hathras on September 14. She died on September 29 at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital during treatment.
The victim was cremated in the dead of the night near her home on September 30. Her family alleged they were forced by the local police to hurriedly conduct her last rites. Local police officers, however, said the cremation was carried out "as per the wishes of the family".