The National Commission for Women (NCW) has served notices to Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya and actor Swara Bhasker for allegedly revealing the identity of the 19-year-old Hathras victim on Twitter and sought an explanation from them.
The Commission has directed the three to remove the posts and refrain from sharing such information in future.
Disclosure of the identity of a victim of certain offences are barred under IPC Section 228(A) and whoever is found to have flouted it can be punished with imprisonment extending up to two years, and will also be liable to fine.
Despite repeated attempts, Malviya, Singh and Bhaskar were unavailable for a comment.
The Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four upper caste men in UP’s Hathras village on September 14. She later succumbed to injuries at a Delhi hospital. According to the family, the local police cremated her in the dead of night without informing them.
On Friday, Malviya had tweeted a 48-second video clip and wrote, “Hathras victim’s interaction with a reporter outside AMU where she claimed there was an attempt to strangulate her neck. None of it is to take away from the atrocity of the crime but unfair to colour it and demean the gravity of one heinous crime against another…”
@NCWIndia has served notices to @amitmalviya @digvijaya_28 & @ReallySwara seeking explanation on their #Twitter posts revealing the identity of the #Hathras vicitm along with a direction to remove these posts immediately & to refrain from shairng such posts in future @sharmarekha
— NCW (@NCWIndia) October 6, 2020
In the video, the woman could be seen lying on the ground, her face clearly visible. The video is no longer available on Malviya’s timeline.
Congress leader Singh’s tweet is also no longer available, but actor Bhasker’s tweet, which shows the protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Friday with some placards carrying the victim’s photograph and the actor herself in the frame, was still available on her handle late in the evening.
What the law says
IPC Section 228 (A) says whoever prints or publishes the name of a rape victim, or any matter which may make known the victim's identity, can be punished with imprisonment of up to two years as well as a fine. The NCW had so far withheld notice on the ground that there were conflicting reports on whether the 19-year-old Hathras woman had been raped. But the probe so far has not ruled out rape, which makes it a suspected rape case. The same principle applies even after the victim's death – the law mandates that her identity needs to be protected.
In separate notices to the three, NCW said it has come across several Twitter posts in which the victim’s picture was used. “In view of the above, you are required to provide a satisfactory explanation to the Commission on receipt of this notice and shall remove and refrain from transmission of such pictures/ videos on social media, as they are widely circulated by your follower(s), which is prohibited by existing law,” the notice stated.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma told The Indian Express: “The people who have been served notices have a huge fan following, and they must lead by example. If they are doing something which is not only illegal but also very sensitive, they are setting a wrong precedent.”
Sharma had earlier pointed out that the video tweeted by Malviya was “unfortunate’’ and “absolutely illegal”, but the NCW did not take immediate action given the “uncertainty of whether this is a case of rape or not”.
A day after taking cognizance of Malviya’s tweet, the NCW also took cognizance of tweets by Singh and Bhasker.
On Tuesday, Sharma said the decision for any criminal proceeding will take place only after the NCW receives replies to its notices.
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