The National Commission for Women on Tuesday issued notices to Bharatiya Janata Party Information Technology cell head Amit Malviya, actor Swara Bhasker and Congress leader Digivijaya Singh for allegedly revealing the identity of the 19-year-old Dalit woman who was raped and killed in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh last month.
Separate notices have been issued to the three individuals. Malviya had tweeted a video on October 2, in which the woman was heard saying that she had been strangled as she resisted her perpetrators. She was lying on the ground and her face was visible. The video is still available on his Twitter handle.
“The National Commission for Women has come across Twitter posts wherein it is seen that the picture of the rape victim of Hathras incident was used during the protest,” the notices read. “Whereas the Supreme Court had held that the bar on disclosure under Section 228 A (2) of the Indian Penal Code was not confined to the name of the victim but actually meant that ‘the identity of the victim should not be discernible from any matter published in the media’.”
The woman’s panel asked the respondents to provide a satisfactory explanation for revealing the woman’s identity, as well as remove and refrain from sharing such pictures or videos on social media. It said that these pictures were being widely circulated by their followers.
Under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, it is illegal to reveal the identity of a person who has been sexual assaulted. “Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C or section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine,” the section reads.
The rape case
On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men raped and tortured a Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district. The woman died on September 29 at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, a day after she was moved from an Aligarh hospital. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries during the rape. The four men have been arrested.
The woman was then hastily cremated by the police against the wishes of her family while they were locked indoors, which led to outrage among politicians, activists and members of the public.
The incident has also triggered nationwide outrage against sexual violence that women face and has foregrounded the deteriorating law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh.
Several politicians called the hasty cremation an abuse of human rights. They have also questioned the exploitative caste hierarchy in the state under Adityanath’s rule.