New Delhi: 

Amid allegations of pressure on family of Hathras rape case victim from various quarters, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to file an affidavit on how witnesses were being protected in the case. Calling the alleged rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras “extraordinary and shocking” court asked the government if the family had hired an advocate.

Questions regarding the protection of the family and witnesses in the case involving the torture and alleged gang rape of a 20-year-old woman from Hathras, came up before the Supreme Court today. Questioning what steps have been taken regarding this, the court issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government. The court also questioned if the family has access to a lawyer.

The petition, filed by social activist Satyama Dubey and others, had sought a Central Bureau of Investigation or a Special Investigation Team probe into the case that had evoked national outrage.

Calling for a “fair” investigation, the petition also pointed to the role of the Uttar Pradesh Police, which has come under fire for its alleged laxity in handling of the case, its secretive 2.30 am cremation of the body and face-offs with opposition leaders who tried to visit the family.

The court questioned the women’s group why they had not approached the Allahabad High Court.

When their lawyer Kirti Singh said they want a transfer of the case, which is already pending  in the Allahabad High Court, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said, “The Allahabad High Court is hearing the case…  we can have the views of the High Court… If the High Court commits error, then we are here”. The court also assured the petitioners that it would ensure a “smooth investigation” in the case.

“We want to know from all of you on what is the present scope of the Allahabad High Court’s proceedings,” said the court. Chief Justice Bobde also sought suggestions on widening the scope of the proceedings before the High Court.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appears on behalf of the UP Government said, “I am not opposing CBI probe. But the unfortunate incident should not be sensationalised. I am only praying that this court should supervise the probe.”

“There are narratives and narratives that may impede a fair probe. Let this court monitor the probe,” said Mehta.

Senior Counsel Indira Jaising sought protection for witnesses and transfer of the trial from UP. “We want that no lawyer should solicit in this case,” she said. To this, SG Mehta said witnesses were already protected. “You don’t need a statute for witness protection. They will have to be protected,” Mehta said.

The state government has already recommended a CBI probe even as it denied that the 19-year-old Dalit woman was raped by four upper-caste men in Hathras on September 14.

The woman had died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital during treatment and her body was forcefully cremated by police at night near her home on September 30.

The matter has been adjourned for next week.