Social activist Teesta Setalvad has accused the Uttar Pradesh Police of “complicity” in shielding the men accused of gangraping and fatally assaulting a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, following recent attempts by the police top brass to underplay the offence. In an application, Setalvad demanded a court-monitored probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation and urged witnesses in the case to be provided with protection by central paramilitary forces.
On Monday, the Supreme Court took up a Public interest litigation (PIL) filed by three lawyers led by Satyama Dubey demanding the Uttar Pradesh Police investigation to be transferred to CBI. The court had termed the incident “horrific” and asked the state government to highlight steps taken to provide protection to the woman’s family and witnesses in the case.
In the PIL, expected be heard next week, Setalvad said she was alarmed by the repeated statements issued by top police officers and elected representatives denying the rape even before the investigation in the case had concluded.
On October 1, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said that the forensic reports in the case did not establish rape. In her application, Setalvad, through her NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace, said, “In view of the fact that the victim was found naked by her mother with vaginal bleeding indicates that sexual violence has indeed taken place. The statement being made to the contrary is irresponsible and indicates malafides as well as complicity.”
Her lawyer Aparna Bhatt, who filed the application, said, “It is alarming that when the Supreme Court has held that cases of sexual violence have to be handled with utmost sensitivity, these brazen statements are being made in the public domain.” The application has sought a court-monitored probe with regular progress reports of investigation to be submitted before the top court.
Setalvad also demanded a judicial probe into the decision to cremate the woman’s body in the dead of the night under vigil of policemen and district officials. “There has to be an investigation into the line of command as to who ordered the cremation….The decision (to cremate) was not spontaneous but well planned and organised.” The application has asked for a former Supreme Court judge to probe the circumstances that led to the cremation of the woman after midnight in an open field near Hathras.
Highlighting a statement issued by the UP government spokesperson on October 2 that mentioned subjecting the woman’s family members to polygraph and narco analysis tests along with the accused, Setalvad said, “Subjecting the family members to such tests when they are neither accused nor booked under any charges in the matter is a great defiance of law. Moreover, a Supreme Court Constitution bench in Selvi v State of Karnataka (2010) has held that no individual can be forcibly subjected to narco analysis as doing so would amount to an ‘unwarranted intrusion into personal liberty’.”