It has to be stated right at the outset that in a significant development, the Uttarakhand High Court on August 21, 2018 in the landmark case titled “In the matter of Brutal Gang Rape and murder of a 12 years old girl in Uttarkashi v State of Uttarakhand & Another in Writ Petition (PIL) No. 102 of 2018 took suo motu cognizance of the rape and murder of a twelve-year-old girl in Uttarkashi. The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj K. Tiwari also appointed Advocates Sanjay Bhatt and lata Negi as the amicus curiae in the case to assist the court in this sensitive matter. The Court took cognizance of two reports published in ‘The Times of India’ dated 20.08.2018 which was titled “Uttarkashi rape: NH blocked for 10 hours” and “City residents march to demand death penalty for rapists of Uttarkashi girl”. This news item has also appeared on 20.08.2018 in the daily editions of ‘Dainik Jagran’, ‘Amar Ujala’ and Hindustan (Hindi).
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, it must be informed here that the Bench directed the Registry to supply the paper book to the amicus curiae free of cost. Para 3 of this landmark order reveals that, “According to the news item, a twelve year old girl in District Uttarkashi was raped and murdered. The accused was not arrested by the Police. The residents of the area have demanded handing over of investigation to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) or Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department (CBCID) and also to take action against the Police personnel under whose jurisdiction the crime took place.”
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, it must also be informed here that para 4 further goes on to reveal that, “It is also highlighted in the daily edition of ‘The Times of India’ that time has come to re-look into the land reforms by restricting outsiders from purchasing the agricultural land in Uttarakhand. There is a reference to Section-118 of Himanchal Land Reforms and Tenancy Act which restrict outsiders from buying land in the hill State. Residents of the area have also demanded to take stringent action against the culprits.”
More importantly, the Bench of Uttarakhand High Court in para 5 of this landmark order sought to remind the State Government of Uttarakhand that, “This Court had already directed the State Government to consider amendments in the law for imposing death penalty upon persons convicted of rape upon minors. The State Government, till date, has not made its stand clear in the matter.” Very rightly said! There can be no denying it!
Bluntly put: Can on earth there be anything more unfortunate than this? Why this dilly-dallying on the part of the State Government? Why no prompt action taken to check rape upon minors? Why State Government has not made its stand clear in the matter? Why State Government has not introduced mandatory death penalty for rape on minors? This is terrible! The Uttarakhand State Government must make its stand clear at least now on this key issue!
As it turned out, Paresh Tripathi who is the Chief Standing Counsel submitted that accused has been arrested yesterday and he will be produced before the Court within 24 hours. The Bench then very rightly noted in para 7 that, “We are of the considered view that the inquiry and investigation in these sensitive matters should be carried out by permanent Special Investigation Teams (SIT).” Needless to say, the setting up of SIT to investigate and inquire in such sensitive matters is a right step in the right direction!
Finally and most importantly, in its concluding part, the Bench of Uttarakhand High Court comprising of Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj K Tiwari in this landmark order in para 8 summed up by saying that, “Accordingly, we issue the following mandatory directions: –
Permanent SITs within 48 hours
A. The Principal Secretary (Home) to the State of Uttarakhand is directed to constitute Special Investigation Teams in all the Districts of Uttarakhand within 48 hours, comprising of the following: –
a) Senior Superintendent of Police/Superintendent of Police.
b) Additional Superintendent of Police/Circle Officer (CO)/Inspector.
c) Inspector of Police (Woman).
e) Woman Social Worker.
Handing over the case to a SIT
B. The present matter is ordered to be handed over to the Special Investigation Team, Uttarkashi immediately after consultation of Special Investigation Team, with a direction, to complete the inquiry and investigation in the matter within four weeks and thereafter, to submit the charge-sheet. Till then, the investigation is permitted to be carried out by the local police.
Speedy trial in all such cases
C. All the Trial Courts throughout State of Uttarakhand are directed to ensure speedy trial of cases registered under Section 376 I.P.C. as well as under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), by holding day to day trial.
State’s response on land reforms
D. State Government is directed to file its response as to whether it is contemplating to prohibit outsiders from purchasing agricultural land in the State of Uttarakhand.
Protection to victims and their families
E. State Government is directed to provide protection to the victims and close family members of the victims in rape cases.
Prohibition against divulging victim’s or family members identity
F. Social media is prohibited from divulging the name/identity of the victim and her family members, including their blurred pictures.
To be sure, the Bench then in para 9 ordered to list the matter on 31.08.2018. In its last para 10, the Bench then ordered that, “Let a certified copy of this order be supplied to learned counsel for the parties today itself, as per Rules.” A lot more is to come when it comes up on 31 August! One has to concede in all fairness that there has to be zero tolerance for such heinous crimes like child rape and death penalty has to be strictly and swiftly implemented in all such cases!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.