New Delhi: The Supreme Court today took strong exception to alleged inaction by the Centre for over 20 days on a complaint relating to posting of two rape videos on WhatsApp and asked the CBI to catch the person who first uploaded them.
“Why you (Ministry of Home Affairs) did not act? You sat over it for over 20 days. You (ASG) please tell us what MHA has been doing,” the social bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit said.
The remarks came after court inquired about the action taken by the MHA which was provided with all the information and rape videos on February 10.
The bench, which was informed by CBI that it has lodged eight FIRs and one preliminary inquiry into the incident, asked the probe agency to “find out” the person who uploaded the sexual assault videos first time.
“You (CBI) must come hard and pounce upon the person who first uploaded the videos for pleasure of somebody. If you do not catch him then such incidents will keep happening,” it said.
The bench then asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, who appeared for MHA and the CBI, to find out as to whether it was possible to catch the person saying, “we are sorry, this should have been done in February itself”. Meanwhile, it also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Odisha for non-appearance of its lawyer despite the issuance of notice to it on February 27.
The bench also imposed fine on Telangana for not providing details of progress made by the state police into a case relating to an attack on the car of one of the office bearers of the NGO who had launched the ‘Shame the Rapist' campaign on social networking sites.
At the outset, the ASG informed the bench that CBI has lodged eight FIRs in the incident and have got the video examined by the forensic laboratory and shortly, pictures of the culprits will circulated for making an effort to nab them. The ASG also said that a nodal officer will be required to deal with the case in co-ordination with the Information Technology Ministry.
The bench, in its order, asked the Director General of Police (DGPs) of Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal and Delhi Police Commissioner to cooperate with the CBI in catching the culprits in the case.
It also asked CBI to file a status report giving details of probe conducted by it on the next date of hearing. Earlier, the apex court had taken suo motu note of the letter on posting of two rape videos on WhatsApp and had asked CBI to launch a probe forthwith to nab the culprits.
“The fact of the matter is that it is a very serious issue and something needs to be done,” it had said after going through the contents of the letter written by Hyderabad-based NGO Prajwala to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu. The NGO, which provided the videos in a pen drive along with the letter to the CJI, had said that one video, which is 4.5 minutes long, shows a man raping a girl while another man is filming the heinous act.
The other video, spanning 8.5 minutes, relates to gangrape of a girl by five culprits who have been shown smiling, cracking jokes, making a video and taking photos while they went about sexually assaulting the victim, it said.
The court had then issued notices to central ministries of Home Affairs and Information Technology and asked the MHA to “forward the pen drive/DVD” to the CBI Director “forthwith” for the investigation.
The NGO, in its letter, had given several suggestions including initiation of a CBI probe into the incident. It also suggested that a task force be set up for looking into the sexual offences and a mechanism be evolved to ensure that citizens report such crimes a “fearless” manner and their identity be protected.
It mooted the idea of maintaining a National Sex Offenders Register which should contain details of persons convicted for offences like eve-teasing, stalking, molestation and other sexual assaults.
The NGO had also suggested that the MHA should have a tie up with ‘YouTube' and ‘WhatsApp' to ensure that such offensive videos are not uploaded and culprits are punished as well.