BJP MLA Raghunandan Rao held up printouts of screengrabs from a video, potentially compromising the identity of the Hyderabad minor rape survivor as well as children possibly in conflict with the law.

Hyderabad cops mull action against BJP MLA for sharing rape survivors video
news Crime Sunday, June 05, 2022 - 14:48

The Hyderabad police are mulling action against BJP MLA Raghunandan Rao for sharing the video of the 17-year-old Hyderabad rape survivor at a press conference. On Saturday, June 4, Rao released a video showing the minor rape survivor in a car, alleging that an AIMIM MLA’s son was with her in the vehicle. The BJP MLA held up printouts of screengrabs from a video taken from inside the car — apparently by someone sitting in the front passenger seat — potentially compromising the identity of the minor survivor as well as children possibly in conflict with the law.

The BJP has been sharing a video taken in the car, which shows the survivor and another minor — who BJP alleges is the AIMIM MLA’s son — together in an intimate position. It cannot be ascertained at the moment whether the act in the video is consensual or not, and this is something that the police will have to probe.

Shortly after the video was released by the BJP MLA, it went viral on social media and was broadcast on television news channels as well. After the video emerged, many began to question the survivor and dissect her version of events. TRS’s social media convenor Krishank Manne questioned the BJP MLA for sharing the video, saying that his actions have led to a social media trial of the survivor and her family.

Raghunandan Rao has claimed that he shared the video to show that the sons of an AIMIM MLA and a Waqf Board chairman were involved in the incident. The police have said that the car in which the incident is said to have happened — an Innova —  is registered under the Waqf Board. Rao said the Mercedes, inside which the video was purportedly shot, belonged to the sister of the MIM MLA. He wanted the police to make CCTV footage public.

One cannot see the faces of the survivor and the other boy, but one other minor boy’s face is clearly seen in the video. This means that the MLA, as well as the BJP, have also revealed the identity of a juvenile potentially in conflict with the law, which is against the Juvenile Justice Act.

Also read: BJP wants MIM MLA’s son booked for Hyderabad rape, cops say probe shows otherwise

As per Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, “no report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication” shall disclose details which may reveal the identity of a child victim, a child witness, or a child in conflict the law; “nor shall the picture of any such child be published.”

The Act says that only the Juvenile Justice Board, or the Child Welfare Committee holding the inquiry into any case, can permit such disclosures if they feel that revealing the identity is in the best interest of the child. The Act also disallows the police from disclosing any record of the child for the purpose of character certificate.

“Any person contravening the provisions shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or both,” Section 74 of the JJ Act says.

Moreover, the BJP MLA may also face action for a video which could possibly reveal the identity of the survivor herself. TNM has learnt that the police are also mulling action against media channels that broadcast the video as well.

Section 23 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act prohibits the media from reporting details — including name, address, photographs, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars — which may lead to the disclosure of the identity of the child.

“No person shall make any report or present comments on any child from any form of media or studio or photographic facilities without having complete and authentic information, which may have the effect of lowering his reputation or infringing upon his privacy,” the POCSO Act says.

The broadcast of the video also contravenes Supreme Court’s 2018 guidelines on rape cases. The SC had said, “no person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media, etc. the name of the victim or even in a remote manner disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large.” In the case of minor victims under POCSO, the apex court had said that the disclosure of their identity can only be permitted by the Special Court if such disclosure is in the interest of the child.

Under the Indian Penal Code, Section 228A(1) criminalises printing or publishing the name or disclosing details of a rape survivor. The law says that a person accused of doing this shall be punished with imprisonment of up to two years and shall also be liable to a fine.

The BJP MLA, so far, has defended sharing the video at a press conference, saying that since he is a lawyer he knows what details to reveal without compromising identities. The police will now have to probe if the politician sharing the video violates laws. Last year, the BJP had lashed out at Congress MP Rahul Gandhi for sharing a picture that identified the family of a nine-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and murdered in Delhi.

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