The family of the 19-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and murdered in September 2020, is upset after the special court acquitted three of the four accused.
The girl's brother told reporters, "Is this justice? Which door should we knock now? The entire world had witnessed what the accused had done to my sister."
Her sister in-law said, "It is the upper castes that have got justice, not us. We have not immersed her ashes in the Ganga yet. We will do it when all four are convicted and not rest till then."
The Dalit family's lawyer, Seema Kushwaha, said, "We will appeal in the high court. I have full faith that the other three will also be convicted. It is strange that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), after its investigation, had filed charge sheet under 376-D (gangrape), 376-A (rape and inflicting injury which cause death), 302 (murder), 34 (criminal act done by several persons) and yet no conviction took place of the other three. Political influence may have had a role in the exoneration."
Earlier, the girl's family had alleged that her body was hurriedly cremated past midnight in an open field near their home, with senior police officers and administration officials overseeing it.
They had alleged that they were "forced" by the local police to conduct her last rites quietly and quickly. It was carried out "without their consent", they said, and "they were not even allowed to bring home the body one last time".
The local police had said the cremation was carried out 'as per the wishes of the family'.
The Supreme Court (SC), while hearing a PIL earlier, had termed it "shocking" and "horrible' and had asked the state to file an affidavit detailing the witness protection efforts on the ground in this case.
On October 1, 2020, the Allahabad High Court, taking suo motu cognisance had said the crime had "shocked its conscience", and about 10 days later, the case was transferred from the UP Police to the CBI that filed a charge sheet against all four accused.
They were, subsequently, charged with "gang-rape" and "murder".
Meanwhile, after her son's exoneration, Munni Devi, the mother of Luv Kush who was acquitted on Thursday, said, "I had left everything on the court. I have full faith in the judiciary. I want my son back now."
Calling the case 'politically-driven', Munna Singh Pundir, the lawyer of Sandeep, who has been convicted, said, "The four youngsters were framed. The CBI had charge sheeted all of them for gang-rape and murder, but none of it (evidence) could stand before the court. The only conviction was for culpable homicide. We will appeal in the HC against it too. He will also be acquitted."
Welcoming the judgment, a UP government spokesperson said, "It was an unfortunate incident. But the stand of the state police had always been that no rape took place in the Hathras case. The court has convicted the main accused for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and under the SC/ST Act. It vindicates the UP Police's stand."
It may be recalled that in her dying declaration before a magistrate in Aligarh, the victim had named the four accused. Her family had then alleged that she was gang-raped. It alleged that the girl was dragged into a farm and assaulted by four upper-caste men.
The special judge Trilok Pal, however, said that the rape charge against the main accused Sandeep could not be proved.