Supreme Court today took note of the alleged controversial statement of UP minister Azam Khan that the Bulandshahr gangrape of a mother and her daughter was a “political conspiracy” and sought his and the SP government’s response on a plea to shift the probe and trial in the case out of the state due to “distrust”.
The brutal incident had happened on the night of July 29 when a group of highway robbers stopped the car of a Noida- based family and sexually assaulted the woman and her daughter after dragging them out of the vehicle at gun-point,
The bench of justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan appointed jurist and senior lawyer F S Nariman as amicus curiae (friend of the court), as it framed some legal questions with regard to freedom of speech and expression and probable impact of statements of those holding high offices on free and fair probe in heinous cases like this.
The bench noted the apprehensions of the victim family, represented by lawyer Kislay Pandey, that there was no possibility of a “fair investigation” in Uttar Pradesh in view of the fact that a Minister has allegedly made a public statement that it was a “political conspiracy”.
Framing the questions for its adjudication, the bench said “when a victim files an FIR alleging rape/gangrape/murder or such other heinous offences against a person or a group of persons, whether any individual, holding a high office or who is in authority, should make a comment on the crime that it was an outcome of political conspiracy, moreover when he has nothing to do with the offence.”
It further said whether the state, which is “the protector of citizens”, should allow these comments which can have an effect or “may create distrust” with regard to fair investigation in such cases.
The bench, while framing another question, said it would examine whether such statements are covered under the freedom of speech and expression of an individual.
It further said the statements, which are not given for self protection, comply with the concept of “constitutional sensitivities”. The plea will now be taken up after three weeks.
The man, whose wife and daughter were gangraped last month on a highway in Bulandshahr, had on August 13 moved the apex court seeking transfer of the case to Delhi, besides lodging of an FIR against Khan as well as several policemen.
The Allahabad High Court had ordered CBI probe into the incident besides deciding to monitor the investigation.
In the plea filed in the apex court, the victim’s father sought an order for transferring the trial of the case to Delhi “in the interest of justice”.
Unhappy with the UP police, the petitioner said the probe should be conducted by “some other competent agency”.
Referring to Khan’s alleged controversial remark that there was a “political conspiracy” in gangrape, the plea said an FIR be registered against him as his statement “substantially outrages” the “modesty” of the victims and their family.
The plea sought “appropriate damages” for the victims besides a direction that the state and others, including the DGP, be stopped from infringing on the fundamental right to life of the victims.
“Direct the respondents (State Home Secretary, Khan, DGP and SSP of Bulandshahr) to pay the appropriate damages to the petitioner as per law,” the plea said.
The plea alleged that the police did not come for help despite the victims making several distress calls on the helpline number.
“The victim dialed 100 number after the incident to seek help from police but it did not help at all,” it said, adding “direct registration of an FIR against erring police officials for disobeying directions of law in the present case.”
The plea said, “Azam Khan called a press conference and publicly insulted petitioner by terming the entire incident as a political conspiracy only and nothing else and thereby caused various acts and deeds being substantially outrageous to the modesty of the petitioner.”
It said that six members of the family were travelling from Noida to Shahjahanpur on national highway-91 when they were waylaid, assaulted and robbed.
The offenders, who were hiding behind the bushes, emerged and took the family at gunpoint and forced the father of the victim to take the vehicle off the road, it said.
The mother-daughter duo were ravished barely 100 meters away from the police post, it said, adding that the offenders snatched cash to the tune of Rs 36,000 and some jewellery from the victims.