Social media giant Facebook on Tuesday issued a notice to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, asking him to remove an Instagram post that revealed the identity of the family of a nine-year-old Dalit girl who was allegedly raped, murdered and forcibly cremated in Delhi. Facebook is the owner of Instagram.
On August 4, Gandhi had met the family of the minor in Delhi Cantonment’s Purana Nangal village. Later, he posted a 35-second video on Instagram showing him and the girl’s parents having a conversation inside a car.
Facebook’s move came days after the National Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights shot off a letter to the social media giant calling for action against Gandhi’s account. In its letter, the NCPCR had pointed out that Gandhi had violated provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and the Indian Penal Code.
India has strict laws against revealing the identity of minor rape victims, even if they are dead. The law and subsequent judicial interpretations of it have made it clear that using the names or photos of rape victims or their families is illegal – unless explicit permission has been given by a special court or sessions judge.
“A post you uploaded through your Instagram account is unlawful under Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015; Section 23 of the POCSO Act, 2012; and Section 288A of the Indian Penal Code,” read the notice from Faceboook. “In accordance with NCPCR’s notice, you are requested to remove this post expeditiously.”
These sections forbid the disclosure of the identity of a minor complainant.
After Facebook submitted a report to the child rights body, the NCPCR exempted the social media giant from appearing before it via video conferencing.
NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo acknowledged Facebook’s report to the child rights body. “After seeing every aspect such as the IT Act, POCSO, Juvenile Justice and CPCR, [the] NCPCR will issue an order in a maximum time period of two days,” he told ANI.
Last week, Gandhi’s Twitter account was “temporarily locked” for sharing the same photo after the NCPCR flagged the matter to Twitter India’s resident grievance officer. However, the matter snowballed into a political game as the Congress party accused the Narendra Modi-led government of intimidating Twitter, instead of ensuring justice to the Dalit girl’s family.