The Supreme Court on Friday took a strong view against circulation of sexual violence videos on popular messaging services and their telecast on social networking sites, ordering a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into two rape cases that were highlighted early this month by Sunitha Krishnan who runs the anti-trafficking NGO Prajwala.
The special social justice bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice UU Lalit called the two gruesome incidents as disturbing and observed the impunity with which the offences were committed showed the offenders had not regard for the criminal justice system.
It took suo motu cognisance of Krishnan’s letter sent on behalf of Prajwala, which she wrote after her efforts to persuade the law enforcement agencies to trace the accused failed. The SC is already hearing Prajwala’s PIL seeking rehabilitation of victims of trafficking.
Krishnan, herself a gang-rape survivor, had received the two videos on WhatsApp. She later edited and posted them on YouTube in a bid to identify the culprits. No action has been taken despite her alerting the police and Union home secretary, to whom she gave a copy of the two videos.
The first clip is of a rape incident purported to have been shot in Delhi and NCR, the second films the gang-rape of a young girl by five men in a Bengali-speaking region. The SC also issued notices to Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Delhi to know the status of their probe into the incidents.
On complaint that there were several websites propagating videos of sexual crime, the SC also put such portals under its scanner. It has issued notice to the ministry of home affairs (MHA), department of telecommunications (DoT) and CBI on her plea to order a probe by the central investigating agency into the incidents. The bench asked Prajwala’s lawyer Aparna Bhatt to provide a DVD of the two videos to the CBI.
“The domain should not allow airing of such kind of videos,” observed the bench on perusing the list of websites submitted by Krishnan. The court even wants to know the Centre’s response on her suggestion to set-up a task force on sexual crimes within the MHA and to have public friendly mechanism for registering reports of such videos or have a toll-free number to maintain secrecy of the complainant’s identity.
In her letter, Krishnan also wants the MHA to tie up with messaging systems and websites to prevent uploading of offensive videos. She also wants the court to direct states to have specialized training on issues related to cyber crime.
“Apart from the fact that the incidents were video-recorded, to make matters worse, they were distributed to the social media through WhatsApp,” stated the letter sent by Krishnan.