The alleged gang-rape and murder incident of Hathras has garnered national attention in the past few weeks and very rightly so. The arrogance and lack of accountability of the Hathras police were much into talks with people from everywhere in the country criticising the police for the plethora of legal violations of the late victim as well as her family and series of unconstitutional actions indulged in by the Hathras Police.
In spite of a nation-wide protest against the absolute unconstitutional actions by the police, which is still vehemently active, Model Town Police Station in Delhi shows a similar arrogance by following the same footsteps as their Hathras’ counterpart. Allegedly on 7 October 2020, a 17-year-old Dalit girl was raped and murdered in her landlord’s house in Gurmandi, North Campus at Delhi University area where she was working for about two weeks. On the said date she was found hanging from the driver’s room in the landlord’s house. Just an hour before the incident she had called her aunt after which she was found raped and hanged. When her family reached the spot, were not allowed to see her initially but following struggle finally led them to be able to see her. But, subsequently, the police shifted the body for at least the next five days without providing any details to the family about where she was taken. The family of the victim desperately searched for her whereabouts for days, assembling in front of the landlord’s house. Shockingly, all of them were put in custody by the police and vehemently beaten up.
The next morning, after the post-mortem was done, the police forcefully cremated the body in the presence of 300 police officers. According to a reporting from The Caravan, on 16 October, a group of people including the victim’s aunt and student activists had been protesting outside the police station against the failure of the police to lodge an FIR by an informant named Kusum on 7 October. While the reporting was happening, the police took the journalist along with the protestors and the aunt inside the police station. Took away the reporter’s camera and deleted every single picture and video of what he covered. The ACP, Ajay Kumar came out, initially threatening to use a steel rod to beat them up, and resorting to using his hands and feet instead, beat the protestors and journalists coupled with abuses and threats. ( Complaint filed by The Caravan Journalist ). Even now, there has been no FIR lodged. The physical assault on the journalist from The Caravan led to public outrage on social media.
In a reporting of HNP News as a video uploaded on their YouTube channel, the members of the victim’s family while giving a detailed statement of how the Delhi Police has been treating them says, “ whokehrahe the humsehum kuchhnahikarenge, hum report nahilikhenge, tum kuchhbhikarlo court kecheherijaao tum. (the police were saying that you go to the court, do whatever you want we will not lodge an FIR).”
Further, they explain how when they demanded to see her body, they were put in custody. The police officers, both men, and women while in a drunk state beat them up enormously. After the victim was unlawfully cremated by the police, the family members were constantly pushed away physically each time they approached them for justice.
One of the members of the family further says in the video, “police ne kaha pehleke hum uskolawaarismeinjalaayenge. Hum dalithaitohinsaannahihaikya? (the police threatened to burn the body as if it was unclaimed for. Are Dalits not taken as human beings or what?)”
After all the violations inflicted by the Delhi police about this matter, the Commissionerate of Police, Delhi sent a rejoinder to an article on this issue by the media house, Madhyamam Daily saying that there was no incident of rape that was found by the post mortem report and it was a case of suicide. The Commissionerate stayed silent about the bigger questions of refusal to lodge an FIR or even take accountability for the brutality inflicted on the victim’s family.
Violation of Supreme Court guidelines: A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P [W.P.(Crl) No; 68/2008], noting the tendency of police officers to not register FIRs at their will, had held that registration of First Information Report is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation. One of the guidelines says the police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if a cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register the FIR if information received by him discloses a cognizable offence.
Violation of the Indian Penal Code: In this case the forceful burning of the body amounts to a serious criminal offence According to the IPC under Section 204 that talks about tampering of evidence. The Delhi police further attracts the offence of physical assault and threat after they inflicted physical and verbal violence on the victim’s family.
Violation of the Constitution: The Constitution of India gives the family of the victim a number of rights that have been violated including Article 21 that gives the aright to life and liberty, Article 19(1)(a) that gives a right to speech, Article 14 gives a right to receive equal treatment under the law and Article 15 that gives a right to not be discriminated under caste among others.
Violation of special rights: Also, according to The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989, it is a crime to not register a case when informed about an offence on a person falling under this Act.
The police can be said to be playing the role of a chief obstacle maker in the fair investigation of this alleged horrific crime. Before our Prime Minister came to power, he made many speeches in which he talked of the need for India to change the rules of governance and to take a new road. Did he perhaps mean, a road to further violations and unconstitutionality?
Senjuti Chakrabarti is an Advocate at Calcutta High Court.