The family of the Hathras victim told the Allahabad High Court that the midnight cremation of the victim's body was done without their consent. They expressed their grief and told that she has the fundamental right of decent cremation.
The case was presented before a 2 judge benche comprising of Justice Pankaj Mittal and Ranjan Roy, in order to record the statement of the victim's father. The part of the victim's father statement read: “He pleaded that he wants justice for her daughter. He had no grudge against the officials except that they refused to hand over the body of her daughter to them and they were not allowed to cremate her in accordance with the Hindu Rituals. He stated that neither he nor any member of the immediate family participates in the cremation and that the administration cremated the body in the night itself despite the insistence on their part to have the cremation in the morning".
The victim's mother told the court that she could not even see her daughter's face for the last time and broke down in the court while narrating the incident. She said that “She wanted to see the face of a daughter, but she was not allowed and against her wishes, the body was cremated in the night. She broke down while narrating the entire story starting from the date of the incident when the girl was allegory raped ".
From the submissions of the family members, the Court was of a prima facie opinion that the basic human and fundamental right of the victim had been violated as no one from the family could they participate in the cremation and the last rites of the deceased victim. Significantly, the District Magistrate, Hathras had claimed in Court that the cremation was done with full honor. He further stated that kerosene was not used to cremate the victim and informed the Court that, "A proper pyre was laid. In cremation, the kerosene was not used and probably, the cans which may be appearing in some of the videos were those carrying Ganga water (Ganga Jal)".
Therefore, the Court was not convinced with the submission of the District Magistrate and observed that the District Magistrate could not satisfy the Court about the observations of the last rites while cremating the victim's body as for the traditional and customs of the family. The victim's brother claims that the State Authorities has acted in a “highhanded manner" and did her last right without the consent of the family and in their absence. It was further alleged that the victim sister- in- law was be-fooled by the local administration and some of the authority misbehave with the family's relatives. Therefore, the High Court has directed the State administration to ensure the safety and security of the family of the victim so that they are safe and no harm is caused to them. There are various speculations about the involvement of higher authorities from Lucknow who were alleged to have issued direction for midnight cremation. However, these speculations are denied by the District Magistrate categorically and said that it was a collective decision of local administration given at a point in time. He further said that if they delay cremation of the Victim's body to morning about 10,000people would collect and make it cast / political issue. The entire decision was taken in a Bonafide manner to maintain law and order situation. The magistrate has also claimed that the father of the deceased victim was 'convinced for cremation in the night' and it was done on his consent only that the body was cremated. The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court has expressed its displeasure with the entire incident and also sad by the local authority’s act of violating the victims and her family's human and fundamental rights. The bench of justices Pankaj Mittal and Justice Ranjan Roy observed that "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 having over the body to the family member or their consent was taken jointly by the administration at the local level was implemented on the orders of the District Magistrate, Hathras.This action of the state authorities do in the name of law and order situation is prima facie infringement upon the human right of the victim and her family"
After hearing both the parties, the Court was of the opinion that the administration has failed to show any good reason as to why they could have not had handover the body to the family members for some time, "say for even half an hour to enable them to perform their rituals at home and thereafter to cremate it either in the night or next day".
The Court has directed the Additional Chief Secretary to come out with a draft policy on the next date of hearing i.e. November 2, 2020, so that proper guidelines in that regard may be laid to avoid incidents of this kind in the future. [READ ORDER]