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Rape convict interview rocks House, Rajnath says stopping telecast

Home Minister Rajnath Singh promised institution of an inquiry into the matter.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 5, 2015 3:53:36 am

Amid the outrage over the interview of one of the convicts in the Delhi gangrape case, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday assured parliament that the documentary would not be aired in India or abroad, “under any circumstances”.

“As soon as I got to know about this, I felt an unhappiness within and I immediately called up the concerned officials… Even before I got the information, I had said that this documentary should not be broadcast under any circumstances — be it on web portals, print media or electronic media,” he told the Lok Sabha. “All precautions must be taken to stop it.”

He said he has asked the Information & Broadcasting Minister to ensure that the documentary was not allowed to be broadcast even abroad.

But a PTI report from London said BBC had decided to advance the telecast, saying the film had handled the issue “responsibly”. In a statement, BBC said the documentary, Storyville — India’s Daughter, would be telecast in the United Kingdom on BBC Four at 10 pm tonight (local time).

“This harrowing documentary, made with the full support and cooperation of the victim’s parents, provides a revealing insight into a horrific crime that sent shock waves around the world and led to protests across India demanding changes in attitudes towards women,” it said.

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Originally, BBC had decided to show it on March 8, coinciding with International Women’s Day. “The film handles the issue responsibly and we are confident the programme fully  complies with our editorial guidelines,” it said.

On Tuesday night, the I&B Ministry issued an advisory asking all private satellite television channels “not to telecast” the documentary, which was proposed to be telecast on BBC and NDTV.

“Excerpts contain an interview with one of the convicted rapists of the Delhi gangrape victim of December 16, 2012… These excerpts were telecast on various channels throughout the day with visuals of the convict, who was showing no remorse whatsoever for the heinous act,” said the advisory.

Singh told parliament today that the government had secured a court order to bar the channels from airing the documentary.

Blaming the previous UPA government, he said: “On July 23, 2013, the permission to interview that convicted criminal was given. I am extremely astounded… Maybe some provisions were there under which permission to conduct an interview in jail was given. But how was permission to interview a rapist given… under what circumstances… it is really shocking,” he said.

Assuring an inquiry, he said: “I am going to decide that if any provisions exist to allow such interviews in custody, they need to be reviewed. We will review such provisions and amend them if need be… Why a rapist was allowed to be interviewed…we’ll find that out. If there is a need to fix responsibility, we’ll fix it.”

Later in the day, the Home Minister summoned Alok Kumar Verma, Director General, Tihar Jail, and sought details on how British filmmaker Leslee Udwin was allowed to interview the convict, Mukesh Singh.

In the Rajya Sabha, Singh said: “When the documentary film was shown to the jail authorities, it was noticed that… the comments of the convict are highly derogatory and an affront to the dignity of women. It was also noticed that the edited version of the film was shown, and not the unedited version as per the conditions. They were requested to provide the unedited film for further review by the authorities… They were asked not to release/ screen the documentary till it received approval from the authorities. Now, it has come to our notice that on March 8, 2015, BBC Four is going to telecast this documentary. The government has taken necessary legal action and obtained a restraining order from the court.”

Meanwhile, in its advisory, the I&B ministry has said that “telecast of these excerpts appear to compromise the role of the media as the upholder of constitutional values as the fourth pillar of our democracy”.

“The media is likely to be seen as a voice for the perpetrator of such crimes by providing him a medium to communicate his views on the matter repeatedly,” it said. “Further, his appeal being sub-judice, this is also liable to be construed as interference with the due process of law.”

Stating that the “excerpts contained his chauvinistic and derogatory views regarding women in general and the victim in particular”, the ministry has said that “these programmes also provided a platform for the convict to use the media to further his own case.” Invoking provisions of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, the ministry has warned of strict action in case of any “violation”.

 

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