The Delhi High Court Friday sought responses of Delhi government, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and several media houses on a plea seeking action against them for allegedly disclosing the identity of rape victims, including in the Hathras gang rape case. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notices on the petition and also sought replies from BuzzFeed, The Citizen, The Telegraph, iDiva, Janbharat Times, News 18, Dainik Jagran, United News of India, Bansal Times, Dalit Camera, The Millennium Post and Wikifeed.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on February 5. The petition has sought direction to the Delhi government to ask the social media platforms and media houses to take down or withdraw any material, news article, social media post or any such information on the details of identity of the victim in Hathras gang rape case or other similar cases.
Petitioner Manan Narula alleged gross violation of section 228 IPC and sought lodging of FIR against those who have violated the right to privacy of the victim by disclosing her identity. The PIL, filed through advocates Suman Chauhan and Jivesh Tiwari, claimed that all the named publications/ portals/ news organisations published information relating to the victim that disclosed her identity to the public at large.
The actions of such disclosure of the identity of the victim of rape is an offence under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and there has been no action taken on behalf of the respondent no. 1 (Delhi government) which is the law enforcement agency empowered to take notice of such offences, it said. During the hearing, the petitioner's lawyer informed the court that hashtags were used on Twitter with the name of the Hathras rape and murder victim by a large number of people including celebrities and cricketers.
Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra said the issue of disclosure of a rape victim's identity was very serious, especially in the age of social media. Mehra with a heavy heart said that the petitioner ought to have moved the trial court under Section 156(3) for seeking lodging of an FIR against the offenders.
I understand the plight of the victim and the law is clear that you cannot reveal the identity of the victim, he said. The petitioner's lawyer also referred to an earlier case relating to the issue of disclosing the identity of a rape victim in which the high court had taken suo moto and had come down heavily on several media houses for disclosing the details of the Kathua gang-rape victim.