Govt serves legal notice to BBC over Delhi gang-rape documentary, ban fails as film goes viral on YouTube

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 06, 2015 01:05 IST

The government asked YouTube to remove all links to a banned documentary on the 2012 Delhi gang rape on Thursday and served a legal notice to the BBC for broadcasting the film, setting the stage for a showdown with the British media giant.

Tihar jail director general Alok Verma issued the notice to BBC hours before it telecast Leslee Udwin’s India’s Daughter, saying that by airing it, the broadcaster had become liable for legal action.

“No final approval was taken by the BBC for commercial use of the documentary and we are waiting for a response,” a home ministry official said.

The five-page legal notice said Udwin had agreed to not use the film for commercial purposes but sold the rights to the BBC, for which she took no approval from Tihar jail authorities, the official said.

“We see a design here. Udwin left the country before the BBC announced it was bringing forward the broadcast in UK,” added the official.

The ban, however, seemed to have failed with a video of the movie going viral. A communication ministry official said YouTube and its owner, Google, had withdrawn the movie late evening after being asked to do so but several such videos remained available on the website. One raked up over 100,000 views in less than 12 hours.

“Please note that the BBC was never due to broadcast the film in India, we were only ever due to show the documentary in the UK, which is what we have done,” a BBC spokesperson told HT in London.

“The BBC has only broadcast the documentary and made it available in the UK. We have not uploaded it to YouTube. The independent production company that made the film is currently taking steps to remove illegal uploads,” the broadcaster also said in a statement.

The Centre, meanwhile, scrambled through the day to block circulation of the videos on social media but the uploads — of the 60-minute documentary and shorter excerpts — could still be accessed, even inside the home ministry till late Thursday. A Delhi court had upheld a ban on the film a day before.

Besides YouTube, the videos are available on peer-to-peer torrent networks, virtually impossible for the government to crack down on.

A Google spokeswoman said the firm continued to remove content that was illegal or violated community guidelines, once notified.

“We have been asked by the court to block websites that show the documentary and we have asked all sites not to broadcast it,” said Gulshan Rai, a senior official in the department of electronics and information technology.

Earlier in the day, an upset home minister Rajnath Singh said the BBC should not have telecast the documentary — in which Mukesh Singh, a convict in the gang rape case, blames the victim in an interview to the filmmaker conducted in Tihar jail.

“We requested BBC not to telecast the documentary but it went ahead. If conditions have been violated, there will be appropriate action,” he said.

The BBC brought forward the date of telecast to 3.30 am (IST) Thursday from the original date of March 8.

“We do not feel the film could ever be construed as derogatory to women or an affront to their dignity,” said BBC Television director Danny Cohen. The broadcaster repeated that it had no plans to telecast the film in India.

The government’s strong response also raised eyebrows with a senior IPS official saying Delhi Police went overboard by registering an FIR. The ban was also criticised by the Congress, saying it was disappointed at the slowness of the government’s response.

Govt banned documentary anticipating rerun of 2012 protests

The government went overboard to ban the telecast of the BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ due to fears of triggering street protests similar to those witnessed after the brutal gangrape of December 2012.

“In case the interview is telecasted (sic), it may lead to widespread public outcry and serious law and order problems as happened in the aftermath of the gangrape case,” Delhi Police — that works under the home ministry — told a Delhi Court on Tuesday.

The Delhi Police had asked for directions to the information and broadcasting ministry and the IT ministry to prohibit the telecast of the documentary on television and the Internet.

The cyber crime cell conceded in its application that it had not seen the documentary but was moving court on the basis of excerpts of the interview that had been published.

Inspector Parveen Kumar went to the extent to argue that the highly offensive excerpts “had already created a situation of tension and fear amongst women in society”.

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