Documentary on Dec 16 rapist triggers controversy, Delhi Police crack whip

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 04, 2015 01:22 IST

Delhi Police on Tuesday registered an FIR against unknown persons and said they would move court seeking a restraining order to stop the screening of an interview of 16/12 gang-rape convict Mukesh Singh — part of a documentary slated to be aired by BBC on International Women’s Day.

The information and broadcasting ministry later sent an advisory to all news channels telling them not to carry the story.

Portions of the interview appeared in the media and on YouTube on Monday, setting off a controversy that seems to be snowballing. In them, the death row inmate, who was driving the bus where the crime took place, blames the 23-year-old victim for the brutal assault that ultimately killed her.

“She should have just been silent and allowed the rape,” he tells the filmmaker, Leslee Udwin, “Then we would have dropped her off after ‘doing her’ and only hit the boy.”

“A decent girl would not roam the city at night. A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy… only about 20% of girls are good,” he adds.

The FIR has been registered under sections 504 (insult to provoke breach of peace), 505 (1) B (cause fear or alarm to public) and 509 (word, act to insult modesty of woman) of the Indian Penal Code and section 66 (A) of the IT Act, which empowers the police to make arrests over social media posts.|

Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi said, “Some portions of the interview that appeared in the media prima facie are covered by the sections under which we filed the FIR. It contains offensive content and should not be out in the interest of maintaining public order. We have registered a case and taken up the investigation.”

Udwin and senior journalist Dibang, who played a key role in the making of the documentary, dismissed reports that they filmed inside Tihar Jail without the requisite permissions.

"I wrote a letter to Tihar's director general saying the film will be in public interest and there won't be any unnecessary sensationalism," Udwin told a news conference . "I was given permission and I interviewed these convicts in October 2013."

“I feel very sad (about the FIR) but on the other hand, I think anything of this magnitude — which is more a movement than a campaign — doesn’t happen easily,” Udwin told HT at the Royal Plaza Hotel, where a special screening of her film, India’s Daughters, was held.

Fearing imminent arrest, she recalled the police crackdown on the protests that erupted in the Capital in December 2012 after the gang rape, saying, “That is this in another version, isn’t it? I’m being silenced for fighting for the rights of women.”

The police action on Tuesday came within hours of news report that Union home minister Rajnath Singh was miffed with the airing of the promos. With a home ministry official confirming to HT, on condition of anonymity, that final clearance for the interview came from the ministry itself in 2013, Singh is likely to make a statement in Parliament on Wednesday to shed light on the circumstances under which Udwin received the permission.

With the Centre taking a serious view of the matter, Singh also spoke to Delhi’s director general of prisons, Alok Verma, asking him for the reasons for allowing the interview in Tihar jail.

An email to BBC for comment went unanswered.

The documentary has four versions of different lengths for international audiences, film festivals, BBC and NDTV, which is scheduled to air it on March 8.

The brutal crime on December 16, 2012, triggered outrage and mass protests across the country, leading to the passing of stricter laws on sexual violence against women.

The physiotherapy student was raped and assaulted with an iron rod after she was tricked into boarding an unregistered private bus to go home with a male friend. Her companion was beaten up and could not come to her aid while the assault was being carried out. The two were later dumped naked and bleeding on the roadside.

The woman died at a Singapore hospital 13 days after the attack.

One of the attackers was found dead in jail in March 2014. While a juvenile member of the gang was sentenced to three years in a detention centre, four attackers, including Singh, were convicted and sentenced to death last year.

The Supreme Court stayed the death sentences as it is considering appeals filed by the four men.

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