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A Bench of Justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh of Allahabad High Court have taken suo moto cognizance over the Hathras gang rape case of the 19-year old Dalit woman.
It has appointed Senior Advocate Jaideep Narain Mathur and Advocate Abhinav Bhattacharya as Amicus Curie to assist the Court.
“We direct the Senior Registrar of this Court at Lucknow to register a suo moto Public Interest Litigation with the title “In Re: Right to decent and dignified last rites/cremation” and place it before the appropriate Bench having jurisdiction to hear PILs” – directed the HC
The Court observed the following-
“The State must respect a dead person by allowing the body of the person to be treated with dignity and unless it is required for the purposes of establishing a crime to ascertain the cause of death and be subjected to postmortem or for any scientific investigation, medical education or to save the life of another person in accordance with the law, the preservation of the dead body and disposal in accordance with human dignity.”
“The incidents which took place after the death of the victim on leading up to her cremation, as alleged, have shocked our conscience, therefore, we are taking suo moto cognizance of the same”, states the order.
Additional the Court observed, as per media reports,
“the cremation took place at about 2:00 – 2:30 AM and from the aforesaid reports and news items what comes out is that the family of the deceased victim followed Hindu traditions, according to which, last rites are not performed after sunset and before the 3-day break.”
The Court added,
“The newspaper reports and the electronic media program/video clippings show that the family members kept demanding for the body and also informed the authorities that as per traditions followed by them, cremation cannot take place after sunset and before day break, yet, the District Authorities got the cremation performed, contrary to the traditions which the family followed.”
“Gross violation of basic human and fundamental rights” enshrined under Article 21 and Article 25 of the Constitution of India “in a most blatant and uncalled for manner, something which is absolutely unacceptable in our country governed by Rule of Law and the Constitution.” Observed the Court if these reports are true.
At this juncture, the Court recalled the saying of Oscar Wilde, “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses wearing above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.”
The Court also said that,
“As it is, the deceased victim was treated with extreme brutality by the perpetrators of the crime and what is alleged to have happened thereafter, if true, amounts to perpetuating the misery of the family and rubbing salt in their wounds.”
“The rights of individual citizens in the Country and the State especially that of the poor and the downtrodden such as the family members of the deceased victim and the deceased herself are paramount and the Courts of Law are under a bounden duty to see that the said rights available under the Constitution are protected at all costs and the State does not in its misplaced endeavour for political or administrative reasons transgress the limits of its powers to encroach and violate such rights, especially in the case of poor and the weak,” the Court said.
The Court added,
“We are inclined to examine as to whether there has been a gross violation of the fundamental rights of the deceased victim and the family members of the victim; whether the State Authorities have acted oppressively high handedly and illegally to violate such rights as if it is found to be so, then, this would be 9 a case where accountability will not only have to be fixed but for future guidance also stern action would be required,” the Court said.
“The State Authorities are directed to ensure that no coercion, influence or pressure is exerted upon the family members of the deceased in any manner, by anyone.”
The Court said that this matter is of “immense public importance” and as it involves an allegation of high handedness by the State Authorities resulting in “violation of the basic human and fundamental rights not only of the deceased victim but also of her family members”.
“The incidents which took place after the death of the victim on 29.09.2020 leading up to her cremation, as alleged, have shocked our conscience, therefore, we are taking suo moto cognizance of the same”- observed the Court.