The Supreme Court on Thursday said the Allahabad high court be allowed to deal with the Hathras case in which a Dalit girl was allegedly brutally raped and died of injuries.
The top court, which was hearing a public interest litigation and several intervention pleas of activists and lawyers, was told that no fair trial was possible in Uttar Pradesh as the investigation has been allegedly botched up.
Allaying the apprehension, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, while reserving the order, said, "Let the high court deal with it. We are here if there is any problem."
"Hearing concluded. Judgment reserved," the bench said while taking note of barrage of allegations on investigation into the case and possibility of influencing the administration of justice.
Besides Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the hearing saw battery of senior advocates like Harish Salve, Indira Jaising, Colin Gonsalves and Siddharth Luthra appearing for various parties.
There were other lawyers, who were representing some petitioners are intervenors, and wanted to argue but the apex court said, "We don't need assistance of the whole world."
The hearing also witnessed deliberations that in no case the victim's identity be disclosed and her family members and witnesses be given full security and protection.
The lawyer, appearing for the victim's family, demanded that the trial in the case be shifted out of Uttar Pradesh to a court in the national capital after completion of investigation.
The apprehension of not having the fair trial in the state was also raised by activist-lawyer Indira Jaising who also made submissions on witness protection.
At the outset, the Solicitor General referred to recent affidavit filed by the Uttar Pradesh government which gave details about the security and protection provided to the victim's family and witnesses in the case.
The state government which has already transferred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation and has given consent to monitoring by the apex court had filed the affidavit after the top court sought details on witness protection and on whether the victim's family has chosen a lawyer.
Referring to the compliance affidavit, Mehta said victim's family has informed that they have engaged lawyer and they have also requested that government advocate should also pursue the case on their behalf.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Director General of Police of Uttar Pradesh, said that a request has been made before the bench that CRPF should be deployed for security of witnesses.
"Whoever your lordships feel, can give protection," Salve said, adding that it should not be construed to be any reflection on the state police.
Mehta said, "The state is completely non-partisan."
During the hearing before the bench, also comprising Justice A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, advocate Seema Kushwaha, appearing for the victim's family, said they want that after investigation, the trial be held in a court in Delhi.
She said that CBI should be asked to submit the status report of investigation directly in the apex court.
Mehta said factual position is that the state government had already said it has no objection and anybody can conduct the probe and CBI has taken over the investigation on October 10.
The law officer, who said the state has no difficulty if the apex court would supervise the case, argued that victim's identity should not be revealed in any manner as it is not permissible under the law.
"No one can write anything which can either name the victim or something which can lead to disclosure of her identity," Mehta said.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, representing one of the intervenor, said accused should not be heard at this stage.
She said, "We don't expect fair trial in state of UP. The investigation has been botched up".
"We want intensive monitoring of the case by a Constitutional court," Jaising said, adding that a special public prosecutor should be appointed by the apex court in the case.
"We are not satisfied with the protection given to the victim's family and witnesses by Uttar Pradesh. Let protection be given by CRPF as was done in Unnao case," she said, adding, "It is the very government against whom the victim's family have grievances".
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who appeared for one the accused, said that details of the case are all over in the media.
"You go to the jurisdictional high court," the bench told Luthra.
The solicitor general opposed one of the application filed by an organisation which has sought to transfer the investigation in the Hathras incident to the CBI besides other prayers.
"The Supreme Court should direct that nobody should collect money in the name of victim. We have seen this in the past. I oppose this IA," Mehta said.
One of the intervenors argued that probe into the case should be conducted by a court-monitored special investigating team.
A 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four upper-caste 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'.