The government on Wednesday moved to block the worldwide telecast of a controversial documentary on the 2012 Delhi gang rape in which one of the men convicted of the crime has blamed the victim. A Delhi court also upheld a ban on the film.
Home minister Rajnath Singh directed the BBC and the ministries of information and broadcasting, external affairs, and information technology to ensure British filmmaker Leslee Udwin’s film, India’s Daughter, isn’t broadcast or put on social platforms anywhere in the world, officials said.
The BBC, in response, announced it would move the UK telecast forward to 3.30am Thursday (Indian time) -- it was originally scheduled for March 8, International Women’s Day. But it said the film would not be aired in India due to the ban. An eight-minute edited version of the film was already broadcast BBC's Newsnight programme on Tuesday night. The film was to have been telecast on Sunday in seven countries, including on NDTV in India.
Sources said the home ministry was also planning legal action against Udwin, who left the country on Wednesday after an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi “to deal with this unceremonious silencing of the film”.
“This was my gift to India and it was rejected even before it was released. I am deeply saddened I have to leave under these circumstances but I also have promotions lined up in New York and London. I would have wanted to stay on and fight till the end,” she told HT.
Udwin said she was saddened by the ban but insisted to HT that she had all the required clearances from Tihar and the home ministry along with signed consent forms from the convicts she interviewed.
The issue rocked Parliament with women MPs from opposition parties storming the well of Rajya Sabha. “It’s been three years, what justice are you going to give to the memory of this woman? Please tell us what the immediate action will be,” asked Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan.
Home minister Singh told Parliament he was "stunned" how permission was granted for convict Mukesh Singh's interview inside Delhi's Tihar Jail. The director general of Tihar Jail Alok Kumar Verma was also summoned by Singh over the issue.
"I was stunned and deeply hurt by this when I came to know about it yesterday (Tuesday). I spoke to the authorities and made sure that all steps are taken to stop the broadcast," Singh said, adding the Centre wouldn't allow the commercial use of such incidents.
The home minister's comments came a day after Delhi Police registered an FIR against Udwin's documentary and obtained a restraining order from a local court, hours after portions of the interview appeared in the media and on YouTube.
In them, the death row inmate, who was driving the bus when the crime took place, blames the 23-year-old victim for the brutal assault that ultimately killed her, triggering nationwide outrage.
Singh assured MPs the government would act promptly and firmly against those who allowed the interview. “The government condemns it. It will not allow any organisation to leverage such an incident (the gang rape).”
He met home ministry officials, Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung and city police chief BS Bassi in the evening to take stock.
Meanwhile, the No Objection Certificate issued to Udwin remained at the centre of the controversy with Singh saying the permission was issued by the home ministry in July 2013.
Singh's predecessor and Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde, however, said he did not give any permission for shooting the documentary and that no papers had come to him in this regard.
(With inputs from HTC, London)