New Delhi: BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya sparked a controversy Saturday after he shared a video of the Hathras gang rape victim on Twitter, which experts say is in violation of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The video shows a purported interaction between the 20-year-old Dalit victim and an unidentified person in which she is heard saying that she was strangulated as she resisted the perpetrators’ attempts to rape her.
“Haathras 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…” Malviya captioned the video, implying that she wasn’t sexually assaulted.
ThePrint spoke to a legal expert who pointed out that the video shared by Malviya was in violation of the IPC as he revealed the identity of the victim.
ThePrint reached Malviya for a comment via texts and calls but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
However, he retweeted BJP leader Priti Gandhi, who suggested in a tweet that Malviya didn’t violate any law as forensic reports show that the victim wasn’t sexually assaulted.
Can you elaborate which law is violated if video of the victim is posted?? Not one report suggests that she was sexually assaulted. It is only a fiction of Lutyen media’s imagination. Are we governed by rule of law or the hallucinations of a few??!! https://t.co/eVTBXGKkHv
— Priti Gandhi – प्रीति गांधी (@MrsGandhi) October 2, 2020
What the law says
According to advocate Aparna Bhat, “Indian Penal Code’s section 228A(1) very clearly bars the name of a victim.”
The section reads: “Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C or section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.”
Section 376 of the IPC specifically deals with punishment for rape.
Bhat said the Supreme Court has explicitly said on numerous occasions that the victim’s identity cannot be disclosed under any circumstances — most recently in the 2018 Nipun Saxena case.
“There are too many cases in which the courts have repeatedly said that you cannot disclose the name of the victim. Not only the name of the victim, but the courts have also gone onto say that anything leading to her identity like her residence, her house [is also a violation],” said Bhat, who had assisted the top court as amicus curiae in the 2018 Muzaffarpur shelter home case in Bihar.
She also questioned the authority under which Malviya shared the video.
Asked about Malviya’s defence, the advocate pointed out that the FIR filed in the case states Section 376-D, which deals with gang rape. Under Section 228(a), the identity of a rape victim cannot be revealed until the completion of the investigation.
Contention over the crime
The 20-year-old Valmiki Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district died of her injuries Tuesday, two weeks after she was allegedly gang-raped and assaulted by four upper caste men from the village. Her body was forcibly cremated by the local administration and police authorities on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Thursday, however, the Uttar Pradesh Police claimed that the forensic report indicated the woman was not raped.
“The post-mortem report says the victim died due to her neck injury. FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) report hasn’t found sperm in samples, making it clear that some people twisted the matter to stir caste-based tension… Such people will be identified and legal action will be taken,” said Prashant Kumar, UP Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order).
The victim had reportedly identified the four accused in her statement to the police for rape. All four are currently under arrest.
Several leaders, including Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, have hit out at the administration for its handling of the case. “You will stifle the voices of the poor, dalit and adivasis, how long will you hide the truth and how many daughters will you burn,” he tweeted, referring to the forcible cremation of the victim.
ग़रीब-दलित-आदिवासी की आवाज़ दबाओगे,
सच कब तक छुपाओगे,
और कितनी बेटियाँ चुपके-से जलाओगे?
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 1, 2020