The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, which is monitoring the case of the gang-rape and death of a 20-year-old woman in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras, has said it will consider shifting the trial out of the western UP district. The move comes after the woman's brother filed an affidavit before the court alleging threats and intimidation to the family and their lawyers during a hearing at the Hathras trial court earlier this month.
In his affidavit before the Allahabad High Court, the brother of the woman alleged the incident took place during the March 5 hearing at the Hathras special court.
A two-judge bench of the High Court has called for a report of the alleged incident and said it will consider as to whether the trial in question is required to be stayed and is to be transferred elsewhere. It also noted that the CBI also intends to file an application for "transfer of the trial from District Hathras to elsewhere, within the State."
The court, in its order has described the contents of this affidavit in detail, including threats to the lead counsel for the victim's family, Seema Kushwaha.
The affidavit said that the presiding judge of the Hathras district court was forced to stop the trial proceedings after "an advocate named Tarun Hari Sharma, stormed into the court room and charged towards the applicant and the complainant counsel, shouting and issuing threats." It also stated that it was "evident that the man was under the influence of alcohol."
"A large mob, including lawyers, entered the courtroom and surrounded the applicant and the complainant's counsel in order to threaten and intimidate them," it further stated.
The Hathras court, "acknowledging the real and grave threat" to the counsel for the applicant, ordered police personnel to present in the courtroom to provide her security cover within the court premises.
Since then, the lawyer has been unable to appear before the special court due to "risk to her safety and security," the affidavit stated
The Allahabad High Court has listed the case for April 7 and asked the Hathras District Judge to ensure "the trial is allowed to be conducted before the court concerned in a free and fair manner without any outside hindrance".
The Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four men from the so-called upper caste community in Hathras on September 14. She later died due to her injuries at a hospital in Delhi. The victim was cremated near her home on September 30.
The four accused have been charged with gang-rape and murder by the CBI.
The handling of the case by Uttar Pradesh Police - particularly the late-night cremation of the victim allegedly without the family's approval - led to angry protests across the country. The officials, however, said the cremation was done "as per the wishes of the family".