The National Commission of Women has issued notices to BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya, Congress leader Digvijay Singh, and actress Swara Bhaskar for allegedly revealing the identity of the Hathras gangrape and murder victim on Twitter. The notices have been made public by LiveLaw here and here.

What did the Commission’s notices say? In separate notices to the three individuals, the Commission said it has come across some Twitter posts wherein “the picture of the rape victim of the Hathras incident was used during the protest”. It demanded an explanation from them, directing them to remove the posts and refrain from sharing such posts in the future.

Disclosing a rape victim’s identity is a criminal offence: Issued on October 6, the Commission’s notices said that disclosing the identity of a rape victim is punishable with imprisonment of up to two years along with a fine under Section 228(A) of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court has further held that this section is not just confined to the victim’s name, but that the “identity of the victim should not be discernible from any matter published in the media”.

What Malviya and Bhaskar had shared on Twitter:

  • On October 2, Malviya had tweeted a 48-second video in which the woman could be seen lying on the ground with her face clearly visible, the Indian Express had reported. According to the report, the video was still up on Malviya’s Twitter account as of Saturday. NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma had remarked that tweeting the video was “absolutely illegal”.
  • Bhaskar’s tweet showed a protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Friday with some placards carrying the victim’s photograph, with the actress herself in the frame, according to the Indian Express.
  • It’s unclear what Singh’s tweet contained, but it is no longer available, as per the IE report.

A case of brutal sexual assault and murder, the Hathras gangrape and murder has been shrouded in controversy, with the Dalit woman’s body being burnt in the middle of the night without her family’s consent or presence. After the cremation, the administration also sealed off the village, keeping media from reporting on the situation. UP police officials and members of the Bharatiya Janata Party have claimed that there was no rape, citing a forensic report, despite the fact that the samples were received by the forensic lab 11 days after the incident.

The NCW had thus far held off on issuing formal notices because of suggestions that the 19-year-old woman had not been raped, based on the forensic report. However, rape has not been ruled out from the investigation.