Dec 16 film: MHA had no authority to give no-objection to interview

  • Rajesh Ahuja, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 11, 2015 15:11 IST

The Union home ministry had no authority to give ‘no objection’ to a request by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin to record an interview of one of the convicts in the December 16 gangrape case as the administration of Tihar comes under the Delhi government, sources told HT.

“The inquiry ordered by home minister Rajnath Singh will examine whether the home ministry went beyond its authority to give no objection to an interview of one of the convicts,” said a home ministry official.

A joint secretary rank officer in the home ministry S Suresh Kumar on July 24, 2013 informed the then director general (prisons) Vimla Mehra, who is now second in command in Delhi Police as special commissioner of police (administration), about the request of ‘Ms Leslie Udwin for entering Tihar Jail to interview some convicts intimated by your letter of July 22. The ministry had no objection to the proposal provided informed written consent was obtained from each of the convicts interviewed, he had said.

“According to the Constitution of India, prison is state subject. In July, 2013, there was an elected government under Sheila Dikshit in Delhi and the administration of Tihar comes under the Delhi government. How can the home ministry intervene in the matter,” said lawyer and former chairman of Delhi Bar Council KC Mittal.

According to Delhi government sources, the home department of the city state was not in the loop on the issue.“We will write to Tihar jail authorities that there should no such direct communication between the home ministry and them. We will also ask them to explain under what circumstances they directly communicated with the home ministry,” said a Delhi government official.

The official added that it is also surprising that the notoriously slow Union home ministry machinery managed to reply in just two days to a letter from the director general of prisons.

Sources said the Tihar administration, on its part has explained that, on December 24, 2013, their law officer had written to the filmmaker that they had a few objections to the footage provided by her.

“The law officer told them that the convict was glorifying rapes and his comments showed women in poor light therefore the portion should be removed. His second objection was on the certain sensitive areas of Tihar being captured in the footage. He asked the filmmaker to remove or blur those parts,” said a source.

Sources said when there was no compliance from the documentary maker, Tihar hired a lawyer to send a legal notice to the filmmaker in April 2014. Udwin was asked to return the unedited footage within 15 days.

After the legal notice from Tihar, the documentary was shown to the jail authorities where it was noticed that it contained the comments of the convict which were highly derogatory. “It was also noticed that the film shown was the edited version and not the unedited one. Hence, they were requested to provide the full copy of the unedited film for further review by the authorities and that they were asked not to release/screen the documentary till it was approved by the authorities,” home minister Rajnath Singh informed the Parliament on Wednesday.

Sources said the last email from Tihar administration to documentary makers went on June 6, 2014, when the NDA government had come to power, asking her to show the edited footage after removing the comments of Mukesh Singh.

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