A court in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday awarded a life sentence to prime accused Sandeep in the 2020 Hathras alleged gang rape and murder case.
Sandeep was convicted for Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The court also slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 against him.
The court acquitted three other accused identified as Ravi, 35, Luv Kush, 23, and Ramu, 26.
The case is related to the alleged gang rape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras district by four men. The woman died at a Delhi hospital a fortnight later. It was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which charged the accused with murder, rape, and sections of the SC/ST Act, but the conviction came only under Section 302 of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Here is the timeline of the entire Hathras case:
September 14, 2020:
A 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped in a field by four upper-caste men in the morning. She had gone there to collect cattle fodder. The Wire reported that her mother was also nearby and she rushed to her when she heard her screaming. She saw her on the ground covered in blood with her tongue cut off. She then called her home and her son arrived at the scene. They took the 19-year-old to the nearest police station.
The family alleged that the police delayed the registration of the FIR. Finally, the FIR was registered against Sandeep for an attempt to murder under sections of the SC/ST Act, according to The Times of India.
The police took the victim to the district hospital from where she was referred to the Aligarh Muslim University's Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (AMU JNMC). She was there for the next 14 days.
Rape charges were added against the accused in the FIR based on the woman's statement, according to ToI.
The prime accused Sandeep was arrested by Uttar Pradesh Police, according to a statement shared by the District Magistrate of Hathras.
The Wire reported that the victim on September 22 named the other three accused named Ravi, Luv Kush, and Ramu. They were arrested in the next few days.
As her condition did not improve, the victim was moved from Aligarh's AMU JNMC to Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital.
By the time she was moved, she was critical and was on life support equipment. A spokesman of the Aligarh hospital at the time said that the woman's legs were completely paralysed and her arms were partially paralysed. She had also suffered spinal injuries as she was dragged on the ground during the assault, according to reports.
The victim died at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital.
The Uttar Pradesh Police forcibly cremated the deceased woman on the intervening night of September 29-10 in Hathras, according to her family.
"The cremation was done around 2:30-3 am," the father of the deceased woman said on Wednesday morning, as per PTI.
In the moments preceding the cremation, a brother of the woman said, "Police have forcibly taken the body and my father along with them for cremation. When my father reached Hathras, he was immediately taken (to the crematorium) by the police."
The alleged forced cremation fuelled further protests and socio-political backlash directed at the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government of Uttar Pradesh. The protests and backlash were there earlier too but the news and visuals of alleged forced cremation further fuelled it.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath spoke to the victim's family and assured justice. He announced Rs 25 lakh financial assistance to the family of the woman; a job to a family member in the post of junior assistant; allotment of a house under the State Urban Development Agency scheme; and a hearing of the case on a fast-track court. A three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) was also formed to probe the case.
Uttar Pradesh Police cited forensic evidence to say that the victim was not raped.
"The report of the FSL has come. It says clearly that the samples did not contain sperm. It makes clear that there was no rape or gang rape," Additional Director General (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said.
Kumar also claimed that the woman in her statement to police "did not mention rape but talked about 'marpeet' (beating) only". However, the UP Police had earlier already added rape to the charges against the accused in the FIR.
Senior advocates Rebecca John and Vikas Pahwa told PTI that the absence of semen on the body of the alleged gang rape victim as claimed by the police in the forensic report was of no consequence for the prosecution of accused persons for the offence as there was a dying declaration that cannot be discredited.
Agreeing with her, Pahwa said the presence of semen was not an essential ingredient and among the essential ingredients to establish that she was gang raped were the victim's oral statements and injuries on her body etc.
"Body can be washed, cleaned. It depends. It is also to be seen how much time difference was there between the offence and the medical examination. If the medical examination was conducted immediately after the rape, there would be the presence of semen, otherwise won't," he said.
Amid mounting sociopolitical pressure over apathy and mishandling, UP CM Yogi Adityanath recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the case.
The Union government approved the CBI investigation into the Hathras case.
The CBI formally registered a case for its investigation into the Hathras case and formally took over the case.
The CBI registered the FIR under Indian Penal Code sections related to gang rape and murder among others, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Its Ghaziabad unit in Uttar Pradesh was assigned the case.
The Supreme Court ordered that the CBI investigation into the Hathras case would be monitored by the Allahabad High Court.
The SC further ordered that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) would provide security to the victim's family.
The CBI filed a charge sheet in the case and invoked charges of gang rape and murder against Sandeep, Luvkush, Ravi and Ramu.
(With PTI inputs)