A CJI-led bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday gave the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) two weeks time to complete the investigation into Sunday’s road crash which has left the Unnao rape survivor and her lawyer severely injured.
Two of the victim’s aunts were killed in the car crash as well, which took place near Rae Bareli.
The top court also ordered the transfer of all five trial cases (in relation to the Unnao incident) from Uttar Pradesh to New Delhi.
When the matter was taken up at 10.30 am, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said that he wanted a “responsible CBI officer” to be present in court by 12 pm today to inform the court of the progress made so far in the Unnao case. Gogoi clarified that in case the officer was unable to disclose details of the case in an open court, then the matter would be heard in chambers.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the court that the officers handling the case were currently in Lucknow and even if they took a flight right away, they would be unable to make it in time. He asked whether they could be given time till 10.30 am on Friday. But the bench told Mehta he could get a brief from the officers over the phone, and then appraise the court.
When the matter was taken up again during the pre-lunch session, CBI Joint Director Sampat Meena was present in the Supreme Court. “She is the supervisor of this investigation,” said Mehta. “She was in Delhi for a meeting so she doesn’t have the records (of the case) with her.”
Mehta went on to describe the four cases registered in relation with the Unnao incident. First is the offence of rape of the victim. A chargesheet has been filed and the accused, which includes BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, are in jail. (It should be noted that the BJP suspended Sengar earlier today.)
The second is a case registered for the gang rape of the victim, allegedly committed a week after she was initially kidnapped and raped by the BJP legislator.
The third is a case registered against the father of the victim—who died in police study after being arrested—under the Arms Act. This case was later found to be false.
The fourth case is on the basis of an FIR filed by the victim’s mother who had stated that her husband’s death was due to custodial torture.
Then there is the case registered over the road crash that happened on Sunday.
“Now tell us: what is the medical condition of the victim?” asked Gogoi. Mehta said she is currently on a ventilator. “Will she be in a position to be moved? Which hospital is she in? We don’t want to move the victim until it is medically permissible. If she can be moved, then bring her to AIMMS today.”
The court moved on to the letter written by the victim’s family. “Tell us why this letter was lying unattended in the PIL section from July 17 to July 30?” Gogoi asked.
“We receive 5,800 letter petitions each month,” said the Solicitor General. “This month, we received over 6,800. These are screened as per guidelines laid down. The screening process was going on in this petition … considering the recent sensitivity, the matter was placed before our lordship on July 30.”
The court asked Mehta by when he expected the investigation to be complete. “Maybe in a month” came the response.
“Month?” said Gogoi. “No, seven days.”
Mehta said there were some “scientific reasons,” but the court refused to listen. “Forget it—do it in seven days,” said Gogoi, adding: “Chargesheet needs to be filed in the same period.”
Amicus Curiae V Giri made an emotional appeal to the bench. He said the Unnao incident is “very disturbing” and that some “exemplary compensation” should be given. He said: “The incident (road crash) which took place involves the aunts of the victim. The lawyer is also critically injured and in the same hospital (as the victim). The incident which took place a few days ago could either be an accident, or an accident with more ramifications. But it throws up certain issues. The father was taken into custody, allegedly beaten up by some other persons who are on the payroll of the accused, and then died in custody. But the gap (between his arrest and death) is about four days … this needs to be investigated. Now, as of today, the victim is on a ventilator. Her mother is also a victim in one of the cases. She will be the prime witness in the fourth case … some protection should be given to the family.”
He also pointed out that charges hadn’t been framed in the past two years.
“What is going on in this country?” said Gogoi. Looking at a visibly shaken Giri, the bench said that he (Giri) was made Amicus Curiae in this case since he was an advocate who deals in commercial law, and this was one of those times when he got to witness “the other side”. “This is why you were made Amicus … we see this on a daily basis.”
The court then broke for lunch.
When the court reassembled at 2 pm, Solicitor General Mehta said the victim could be airlifted to Delhi and that there would be no medical drawbacks for the same. The bench said the victim—who is currently at King George Hospital in Lucknow—should be given expert treatment at AIIMS in New Delhi, subject to the agreement of her family for the same.
Although the court had, verbally, before lunch said that the CBI would be given only a week to probe the car crash case, it said after lunch that the central watchdog could take up to 15 days. The bench also ordered the transfer of all five cases—in the Unnao rape and car crash incident—to a competent court in Delhi.
At the same time, it (the court) also directed that the case must be heard by a trial court on a day-to-day basis and that the trial must be completed within 45 days.
Lastly, it directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to pay ₹25 lakh as interim compensation to the rape victim by Friday.