On Friday night, BJP’s IT cell head Amit Malviya tweeted a video of the 19-year-old girl Dalit woman from Hathras which showed her face, in an attempt to further the Uttar Pradesh administration’s narrative that she wasn’t raped.
“None of it is to take away from the atrocity of the crime but unfair to colour it and demean the gravity of one heinous crime against another…” Malviya claimed.
Malviya not only “misrepresented” the woman’s words, as Scroll pointed out, his actions also violate the law about disclosing the identity of a rape victim.
Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code says that whoever does so “shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine”.
However, three days later, no action has been taken against Malviya, and his tweet continues to be up. National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma told The Indian Express that “if she is a rape victim, then the incident of tweeting the video is really very unfortunate and is also absolutely illegal.”
“The UP Police had issued a statement saying that she was not a victim of rape. Nevertheless there seems to be some confusion. I will be speaking with Amit Malviya as well as the UP Police personally on the matter,” Sharma added.
She also alleged that not only Malviya, others such as actor Swara Bhasker have also disclosed the woman’s identity, and notices will be sent to everyone “once it’s clear”.
However, Scroll pointed out that the law on not disclosing the identity of the rape victim has nothing to do with the offence being proved and is applicable as soon as legal allegations of sexual assault are made.
The BJP, however, seems to be denying that the woman was raped at all, and claiming that hence, Malviya has not violated the law, which is untrue.
BJP’s Mahila Morcha leader Priti Gandhi tweeted that “not one report suggests that she was sexually assaulted. It is only a fiction of Lutyen media’s imagination. Are we governed by rule of law or the hallucinations of a few?”
Advocate Aparna Bhat, who had assisted the Supreme Court as amicus curiae in the 2018 Muzaffarpur shelter, told The Print, “There are too many cases in which the courts have repeatedly said that you cannot disclose the name of the victim. Not only the name of the victim, but the courts have also gone onto say that anything leading to her identity like her residence, her house [is also a violation].”
Bhat also said that the FIR filed in the case states Section 376-D, which deals with gang rape, and under Section 228(a), the identity of a rape victim cannot be revealed until the investigation is complete.
Even though the Uttar Pradesh police cited the forensic report to say that the Hathras woman was not raped, questions have been raised about this.
ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said last week that the cause of her death is an injury to the neck and trauma resulting due to it, citing a forensic science laboratory (FSL) report. “Even the woman in her statement to police did not mention about rape but talked about marpeet (beating) only,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.
However, NDTV pointed out that the woman’s samples were sent to the forensic lab 11 days after incident. Her samples were collected on 22 September at a hospital in Aligarh and sent to the FSL on 25 September.
In her statement to the police on 22 September, the woman had said that four men raped her on 14 September when she had gone to collect firewood, according to Scroll.
The Chief Medical Officer of Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU’s) Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College told The Indian Express that the FSL report “holds no value”.
“The samples were collected 11 days after the woman was allegedly raped, while government guidelines strictly say forensic evidence can only be found up to 96 hours after the incident. This report can’t confirm rape in this incident,” the report quoted Azeem Malik, the CMO, as saying.
(With PTI inputs)