Police lapse on video rape suspects

Three suspects arrested in Uttar Pradesh after being identified from gang-rape videos posted on the social media were booked only for sexual harassment and have received bail, the CBI today told the Supreme Court.

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 21.03.15
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New Delhi, March 20: Three suspects arrested in Uttar Pradesh after being identified from gang-rape videos posted on the social media were booked only for sexual harassment and have received bail, the CBI today told the Supreme Court.

The apex court's notice had been drawn to the two videos by an activist who, after receiving them on WhatsApp, had uploaded them on YouTube so the rapists could be identified and caught.

Sitapur district police recently arrested the trio and charged them under the penal code's Section 354A (sexual harassment), where punishment ranges between a mere fine and three years in jail, the CBI said.

This despite Section 376D, introduced by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 and dealing with gang rapes, providing for at least 20 years' jail "which may extend to life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person's natural life".

The accused were granted bail by a Sitapur court, the CBI said.

Following this, the special Social Justice Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit asked the agency to investigate the matter and hand in a status report within four weeks.

The videos appear to contain explicit images of the gang rape of two women at two unidentified sites. They came under national spotlight after Sunita Krishnan, the activist who uploaded them on YouTube, had her car stoned in Hyderabad.

The apex court took cognisance of the incident suo motu (on its own) in February after Chief Justice H.L. Dattu received a letter from Krishnan, founder of the Hyderabad NGO Prajwala, through counsel Aparna Bhat.

It then sought responses from the CBI, Union home ministry, department of telecommunications and the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Delhi and Odisha. Initially, the two gang rapes had been thought to have taken place in any one or two of these states.

During today's hearing, additional solicitor-general Maninder Singh said that one of the incidents had definitely happened in Uttar Pradesh and the other in any one of the four states. It was Singh who revealed how the three suspects - all from one of the videos - had been booked under lesser charges.

He said the CBI had obtained some leads on the men in the other video and was trying to track them with the help of the police of the state(s) concerned. He said he couldn't say more lest it alert the suspects.

The additional solicitor-general added that the CBI would soon publish images of the suspects from the second video - a set of six clippings from various stages of one incident - in newspapers in certain states. A Rs 1-lakh reward would be offered for information on the suspects.

Singh said the CBI had also stumbled on a third gang-rape video but the incident appeared to have happened in Egypt. He said the external affairs ministry was seeking details from Cairo to make sure it had indeed happened in Egypt and not India.

The bench today summoned the Odisha chief secretary for the state's failure to respond to its February 27 notice or the Rs 50,000 fine imposed on the state at last week's hearing for the default.

But the court reduced the fine of Rs 25,000 imposed on the Telangana government to Rs 5,000 after its counsel placed a satisfactory police investigation report on the attack on Krishnan's car.

It remains unclear, however, whether the assault was linked to her uploading of the rape videos. Nor have the police been able to identify the attackers.