Hathras Case: “Who will police the Police?”

Hathras Case: “Who will police the Police?”

“Always the women, always the young girls. Rape after rape after rape. They cry, we cry, and yet, no one hears the screams.”

In a very gruesome event that occurred on Sept. 14, 2020, at a small village in Uttar Pradesh named Hathras, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped and murdered brutally by four upper caste ‘Thakur’ men in broad daylight. She was initially admitted to Aligarh Medical College and then shifted to a hospital in Delhi, where she succumbed to her injuries two weeks later.

After the incident, the Police took no measures and called it “fake news” – they refused to file an FIR under the crime of sexual assault, even though there were consistent attempts by the family to bring to light the atrocities that the victim had gone through. It was only on Sept. 20, 2020, that the Police finally filed an FIR due to public outrage. 

No explanation for inaction has been provided by the Police thus far – injustice keeps prevailing yet no punitive or preventive measures are taken. Crimes against women and aggression towards the minority community continue and there is no one to be held accountable. The upper caste elements in the State are fortified with no fear of law. They are rest assured that they will be given access to political and police security. Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh Police has also denied all the allegations put forth by the victim’s family. They claim to have been proactive in helping them get justice instead. 

What further came as a shocking revelation was that after the death of the victim, her body was forcibly cremated by the Police without the consent or knowledge of her family, in an attempt to tamper with and destroy crime evidence. The victim was denied the Right to Equality before the law and equal protection of the law, in both life and death. No law permits police authorities to cremate a person’s body against their family’s will even in a case of grave urgency. By law, a dead body has to be handed over to the family of the deceased after post mortem. 

The Police have this statutory as well as constitutional obligation for the protection of people but where does a hapless victim go when the Police officials are the ones who need the policing? They are the “salt” of law and order; but, biblically put, ‘if the salt has lost its savor wherewith shall it be salted?’ Not all the Codes nor Hon’ble Courts can make the people’s protections truly protected unless the police know the law, stand by legality, probity, and ethic, refuse to abuse or misuse their power and realize that they are the people’s agent of justice, not authoritarian operators of any political party or tinpot tyrant using uniformed violence in disregard of human rights.

The Allahabad High Court took suo moto cognizance of the case on Oct. 2, 2020, stating that the happenings in the Hathras Case “have shocked our conscience”. The order passed by a Bench of Justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh states, “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.” The Court further stated that if there had been a gross violation of the Fundamental Rights of the deceased victim and her family members and the police authorities had oppressively violated the rights and laws. The Court questioned the police authorities and called for an investigation; the Hathras District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police have been suspended by the state government authorities. CBI has also been ordered to probe into the matter.

The case in hand is a real illustration to remind the off quoted statement of a very learned Hon’ble Justice Anand Narain Mulla of the Hon’ble High Court at Allahabad long back in 1962 (2) CRI. L. J. 125 State v. Mohammad Naim that:

there was not a single law-less group in the whole country whose record of crime came anywhere near the record of that organized unit which is known as the Indian Police Force”.

When the prosecuting agency itself is indulged in a cover-up mission, it is almost impossible to bring a guilty person to book and punish. Police officials do not hesitate anymore in committing daylight and daring offenses and thereby stick to it, maybe for the reason that they are well equipped with the system of covering it up. The situation is really alarming and needs immediate remedial measures. The public dissatisfaction and distress cannot wait indefinitely if it is not attended now. It may be too late in the day and transform into a people’s revolution we are witnessing in some other parts of the world, and while we are all in this together, not all of us are fighting the same fight.