Responding to an affidavit filed by the brother of the 20-year-old Hathras gang-rape and murder victim, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on Saturday said that it will consider shifting the trial out of the western UP district.
In the affidavit, the victim’s brother alleged that during the earlier hearing, his family and lawyers were intimidated at the Hathras trial court.
The victim’s brother had earlier this month sought to stay the trial proceedings given the real and grave risk of a miscarriage of justice after he and his counsel were allegedly threatened in the courtroom of the Special Judge (SC/ST), Hathras. Subsequently, on March 5, the Allahabad High Court has asked the District Judge, Hathras, and the Inspector-General Central Reserve Police Force to look into the allegations and submit a report within 15 days.
Thereafter, the affidavit submitted by the victim’s brother on March 18 said that on March 5, when he, accompanied by his wife, and counsel Seema Kushawaha, went to the Special Court of B.D. Bharti to record prosecution evidence, an advocate named Tarun Hari Sharma stormed into the courtroom and charged towards him and his counsel, shouting and issuing threats. Mr. Sharma seemed to be under the influence of alcohol and he said that Ms. Kushwaha could not represent the victim’s family.
On account of fear for their life and security, the affidavit said, the prosecution witness could not depose properly. When the proceedings resumed, the affidavit stated, another advocate, Hari Sharma, who is said to be the father of Tarun Hari Sharma, entered the courtroom and issued threats. After this, the affidavit said, the Presiding Judge was forced to stop the proceedings, ask police personnel present in the court to provide security cover within court premises and direct the Station House Officer (SHO), Kotwali to provide safe and secure passage to Ms. Kushwaha.
Anurag Singh, the counsel of the Central Bureau of Investigation, informed the High Court that the investigating agency intended to file an application for transfer of trial from district Hathras to elsewhere within the State.
The High Court further provided that till the next date of listing, the trial court should conduct the proceedings in-camera in the letter and spirit of Section 327 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It also directed the District Judge to ensure the trial was conducted before the Court concerned in a free and fair manner, without any outside hindrance.
The Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four men belonging to the Thakur community on September 14, following which she died at a Delhi hospital. The controversy was further exacerbated when UP police personnel cremated her in the middle of the night on September 30, allegedly without the consent of her family, although the UP-government officials maintain that her cremation was done “as per the wishes of the family”.
The four accused have been arrested by the CBI.