Hathras rape-murder case: UP Court acquits three accused, convicts one for culpable homicide saying ” None of the accused have been found guilty of gang rape.”
Three of the four accused in the case of 2020 gang rape and torture of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras of Uttar Pradesh were acquitted by a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe court today, March 2. None of the accused have been found guilty of gang rape.
The teenager’s eventual death while undergoing treatment in Delhi and the Uttar Pradesh Police’s hurried cremation of her body – during which they allegedly did not allow members of her family to be present – had led to a nationwide stir. The men accused of the crime were ‘upper’ caste Thakurs, leading many to question years of caste injustice.
The investigation was eventually handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Now, only one man, 20-year-old Sandeep, was found guilty of committing culpable homicide not amounting to murder, under section 304 of the Indian Penal Code, LiveLaw has reported. Sandeep has also been charged under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. He will get life imprisonment.
The three other accused, Ravi (35), Luv Kush (23), and Ramu (26), were pronounced not guilty.
Significantly, LiveLaw has reported that none of the four accused have been found guilty of the offense of gang rape by the special court. In the victim’s dying declaration before the district magistrate, she had named and accused three men – Luv Kush, Ravi, and Ramu – of sexual assault.
The chargesheet filed by the CBI had faulted the Uttar Pradesh Police for ignoring the woman’s statement.
The CBI chargesheet stated: “During her examination on September 22, the victim categorically stated that she was gang-raped by the four accused persons; she also named them in her dying declaration… It establishes that on September 14, the victim was gang-raped at the bajra field when she was alone. The investigation also revealed that all four accused were present in the village or nearby place, which corroborates the allegation of the victim.
What was the Hathras Case?
The incident took place on 14 September 2020, when the victim, a 19-year-old Dalit woman went to a farm to collect cattle fodder. Four upper-class men of the Thakur caste— Sandeep, Ramu, Lavkush, and Ravi — allegedly dragged her away by dupatta around her neck injuring her spinal cord in the process.
She was left paralyzed with a severe spinal cord injury. Her tongue was cut off. The perpetrators had tried to strangle the girl as she resisted their rape attempt. She ended up biting her tongue while being strangled.
Her cries were heard by her mother, who came to the spot to find her lying down on the farm. She was at first taken to the Chand Pa police station, where the police rejected her claims and, according to the family, humiliated them.
The police registered a complaint only on 20 September. The police were able to record the victim’s statement on 22 September. In her three recorded statements, she mentioned that “she was raped” and was strangled when she attempted to resist. The victim was initially admitted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Aligarh on 14 September with her spinal cord severely damaged. She was later moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi after her condition worsened. According to the police, the victim had been strangled with her dupatta. She died on 29 September 2020.
The mother of the victim said that Sandeep and Luvkush had been harassing her and the victim for months.
The autopsy registered the cause of death as “injury to the cervical spine by blunt-force trauma,” and refers to “rape and strangulation” in the medical history.
The victim was cremated on the night at about 2:30 am on 29 September 2020 by Uttar Pradesh Police without the consent or knowledge of the victim’s family. The brother of the victim alleged that it was done without the family’s consent and that they were locked up in their house. He also alleged that petrol was used for cremation. However, Prashant Kumar, ADG (law and order), said that the family’s consent was obtained.
The forced cremation led the Allahabad High Court to take suo moto cognizance. The bench also asked the victim’s family, the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police to appear before it. The bench said, “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”.
When the news broke out initially through social media, Agra Police, Hathras District Magistrate, and UP’s Information & Public Relations called it “fake news”. Later, a senior UP Police officer claimed that no sperm was found in samples as per the forensic report and that some people had “twisted” the incident to stir “caste-based tension.” The officer also said that the forensic report revealed that the victim was not raped.
However, critics have alleged this evidence is unreliable, citing guidelines that state swabs to test for sperm should only be taken if the assault might have occurred in the previous three days. After three to four days, swabs should be taken to test only for semen, not for sperm. Kumar also stated that the forensic report had found “no semen or semen excretion”; a retired officer quoted by the BBC criticized that “Police officers should not jump to conclusions. The presence or absence of semen by itself does not prove rape. We need a lot of other circumstantial and other evidence.”
The family alleged that they were faced pressure from the administration. A video emerged in which the Hathras District Magistrate is seen pressuring the family into changing their statement. He could be heard saying “Don’t ruin your credibility. These media people will leave in a couple of days. Half have already left, the rest will leave in 2–3 days. We are the ones standing with you. Now it depends on you if you want to keep changing your testimony….”
On 3 October, the state government suspended five police officers including the Superintendent of Police.
And now, three of the men are found “innocent” and only one will get life imprisonment. India will remember one of the most horrific crimes of a gang rape murder of a girl not getting justice. While the country screamed for the death sentence for Nirbhaya’s rape-murderer, the nation is rather silent on the Hathras Rape Murder.