Hathras case: Dalit, queer, Adivasi activists file impleadment motion in SC

The application has been moved “in a larger bona fide interest for upholding the rights of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) community.”
Protests over the Hathras incident
Protests over the Hathras incident

An impleadment application has been filed in the Supreme Court by 11 queer, Dalit, Bahujan activists as well as persons from Adivasi and Vimukta Jati communities, in connection with the 19-year-old Dalit woman’s death in Hathras, who was allegedly gangraped and then succumbed to her injuries. The application states that the Hathras tragedy is not an isolated incident but “actually stems from the country’s long oppressive history based on caste that continues even in 2020.” The application has prayed that the Supreme Court direct the transfer of all connected cases in the Hathras case from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi Special Court “to ensure fair trial and meet the ends of justice.”

The applicants include Radhika Vemula, mother of the Hyderabad PhD scholar Rohith Vemula; Grace Banu, founder-director of TransRightsNow Collective; journalist Cynthia Stephen; lawyer and activist Manjula Pradeep; Dalit activist Sujatha Surepally; and social activist and poet Disha Pinky Sheikh, among others. The intervention application has been moved in a “larger bona fide public interest for upholding the rights of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) community and that of society at large,” the application states. 

“The Hathras tragedy is a shameful testimony to the systemic caste-based discrimination existing in the State machinery. The Police Personnel, Politicians, and Government officials, in the present tragedy, have not only failed to implement the rule of law, protect the marginalised but they have further inflicted more pain and violence on the Hathras gang-rape and murder victim’s family,” the application states. 

The application also seeks an order directing the constitution of an independent Special Investigation Team to probe the case. Calling it ‘violative’ the applicants have also asked the court to make sure that the Uttar Pradesh government refrains from conducting polygraph tests or narco tests of the victim’s family. The application has asked the SC to direct the UP government to secure rights of the victim's family and witness, provide protection to the family and ensure they are treated with fairness, respect and dignity.

On October 6, the Supreme Court had termed the Hathras incident as "shocking and horrible" and had that it will ensure a smooth investigation into the case. The Supreme Court had questioned up the Uttar Pradesh government on how the witnesses were being protected in the case. The 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gangraped by four dominant-caste men in Hathras on September 14. She succumbed to her injuries on September 29 at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital during treatment. The woman was cremated in the dead of the night near her home on September 30 and her family had alleged they were forced by the local police to hurriedly conduct her last rites. Local police officers, however, said the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family" and also that there was no evidence of rape.

Several PILs and intervention applications have been filed by individuals, NGOs and lawyers in the top court seeking a probe by an independent agency into the incident.

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