The Allahabad High Court discontented with the explanations stated by the UP administration for speedy cremation of the body of the 19-year old Dalit woman in the Hathras gangrape and murder case. The Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow Bench has uttered its discontentment on the intact incident also condemn the local authorities for violating the victim and her family’s human and fundamental rights.
“India is a country which follows the religion of humanity, where each one of us is supposed to respect each other in life and in death. However, the above facts and circumstances, as of now, ex facie, reveal that the decision to cremate the victim in the night without handing over the body to the family members or their consent was taken jointly by the administration at the local level and was implemented on the orders of the District Magistrate, Hathras. This action of the State Authorities, though in the name of law and order situation, is prima facie an infringement upon the human rights of the victim and her family,“ the Bench of Justices Pankaj Mithal and Rajan Roy noted.
Observation of the Court
- The expanded fundamental right to life to live with dignity and to exist with dignity even after death as well as the right to decent burial/cremation appears to have been infringed hurting the sentiments of not only the family members but of all persons and relatives assembled on the spot, the Court observed.
- It further stated that the victim was at least entitled to decent cremation in accordance with her religious customs and rituals which essentially are to be performed by her family. Cremation is one of the ‘Sanskars’ i.e., antim sanskar recognized as an important ritual which could not have been compromised taking shelter of law & order situation.
- Whether the hasty cremation of the dead body of the victim in the odd hours of the night without revealing her face to the family members and allowing them to undertake the necessary rituals in the absence of their consent and presence would amount to the denying decent cremation in gross violation of her fundamental/human rights as enshrined under Articles 21 and 25 of the Constitution of India. If so, who is responsible for the same so as to fix their accountability and liability and how the family of the victim be compensated for it.
- Sensitivities of the people which the constitution recognizes as fundamental rights such as a right to decent burial/cremation as per traditions and customs followed by the family, have to be respected and if considerations of maintenance of law and order are pitted against such valuable rights, the situation needs to be handled deftly and responsibly on a proper appreciation of both the aspects as such valuable rights cannot be trampled or trifled casually or whimsically especially when those likely to be deprived are of the downtrodden class, uneducated and poor, the Bench observed while emphasizing that the case at hand would have wider ramifications on the public.
- The guiding principle of governance and administration, after independence, should be to ‘serve’ and ‘protect’ people and not to ‘rule’ and ‘control’ as was the case prior to independence. The government should come out with appropriate procedures as guidance for district officials to deal with such situations.
Directions given by the Court
- The Court has directed the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to come out with a draft policy by the next date of hearing, so that proper guidelines in that regard may be laid to avoid incidents of this kind in future.
- Inter alia, the Court has directed the State administration to guarantee the protection and security of the family members of the victim and additionally provided that the inquiry/investigation which is being carried on in the matter, either by the S.I.T. or by any other agency such as CBI, shall be kept in full confidence.