Will Indian police authorities win a criminal case against Zee News channel for revealing the Indian rape victim’s identity?

On 6 January 2013 I started writing this blog post which I never published until today. It still puzzles me why it took me over a month to publish this piece. While I understand there might be a number of reasons, but that it took me this long worries me. It is further heartbreaking this publication comes a few days after South Africa had its own Indian-like-rape incident in the Western Cape province where a 17-year-old girl, Anene Booysen, was reportedly raped, had her intestines removed and found at the scene, and later died in hospital last week Saturday.

This article sought to clarify whether Indian news channel, Zee News, acted responsibly following reports (which it had since confirmed) that it aired an interview footage showing the alleged boyfriend’s face uninsured as he recalled the horrific incident on the night of December 16 where he and his now girl took a private bus to return home from a cinema in south Delhi. This led to police authorities opening a criminal case against the Hindi-language channel on Friday (4 Jan 2013) because they believe the footage would lead to the identification of the victim in breach of a law entitling her to anonymity.

At the time The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Police authorities in India not to press charges against the news. Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told AFP news agency that the criminal case against the news channel was filed under section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code which “deals with disclosing the identity of victims of offences such as rape”. Just as in South Africa and as also stated in the South African Press codes, Indian law does not allow the naming of rape victims without permission from the victim or family members. So by showing the alleged boyfriend without obscuring his face, police authorities believe this could be judged as having revealed the girl’s identity.

Like the Booysen rape, the Indian rape had spurred protests across that country. Once in the bus, said the alleged boyfriend in an interview with Zee News, he was attacked and the 23-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by the driver and five others who also violated her with an iron bar causing immense internal damage that led to her death last weekend. The alleged boyfriend in the interview levelled harsh criticism at the police for arriving late at the scene and then delaying taking the couple to hospital while they argued over which police station should take responsibility for the crime, reported AFP news agency.

While admitting to interviewing the alleged boyfriend, the news agency did not reveal his identity. But CPJ criticised the police authorities, with its Asia programme coordinator Bob Dietz saying the criminal case against the news channel was “an instance of greatly misplaced priorities”. Dietz said the authorities were not “protecting the victim’s rights by retaliating against news media that are bringing to light details of the horrific crime that claimed her life.”

While one agrees with the Indian and South Africa laws protecting the identity of the rape victim unless permission is sought from his/her family and or guardian – one wonders HOW the Indian authorities will defend the Zee News criminal case because the girl’s father revealed her name to the UK’s Daily Mirror’s Sunday Paper as a 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey. Badri spoke to the UK Daily Mirror‘s Sunday edition, The Sunday Paper in an interview published on 5 Jan, that the family “want(ed) world to know her real name”. He said Jyoti “didn’t do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself.” The father said he is proud of her daughter and that “revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.”

Jota’s mother, Ash, 46, was also shell-shocked to talk about her daughter’s horrific death, according to the newspaper. The father told The Sunday Paper that “at first I wanted to see the men responsible face to face but I don’t want to any more. I just want to hear that the courts have punished them and they will be hanged”. He said all six men should be given a death sentence (emphasis), adding: “These men are beasts. They should be made an example of and that society will not allow such things to happen.”

When Jyoti, a medical school graduate, did not return home from the cinema, her mother got worried and started calling her, she told the newspaper. “We started calling her mobile and her friend’s mobile but there was no answer,” said Ash. “Then at 11.15pm we got a call from the hospital in Delhi telling me my daughter had been in an accident.” His father said when they arrived at the hospital his daughter’s was “in the bed with her eyes closed”. “I put my hand on her forehead and called her name. She slowly opened her eyes and started crying and said she was in pain. I held my tears. I told her not to worry, have strength and everything will be all right,” he said.

But a policeman then explained to a clueless Badri that his daughter and her friend Wanda Pandey, 28 (presumably the alleged boyfriend interviewed by Zee News), boarded a bus to get home but had been taken on a two-and-a-half hour ride to hell by the driver, his assistant and four passengers. Both were battered with iron bars and Jyoti was repeatedly raped before they were stripped and dumped on a road leading to Delhi airport – yards from where Badri was working, a policeman told the father, according to the newspaper. The father then called his wife and sons to come to the hospital “but I couldn’t tell them about the rape,” he said. The newspaper reported that Jyoti was for the first ten days in and out of consciousness and it was hopeful she would survive.

Badri said Doctors “did their best to save her [but she later lost her life]”. He said before she died, her daughter “spoke a few times but mostly through gestures. She had a feeding pipe in her mouth making it difficult for her to speak. But she did write on some paper that she wanted to live, she wanted to survive and stay with us. But it was fate that had the last say in the end.”According to the newspaper Jyoti gave the police two statements, but his father was too distraught to sit in as he couldn’t listen to what his daughter had been subjected to. His wife instead was with her through the statements “but she cried so much after hearing it all”.

Said Badri: “She (Ash, his wife, Jota’s mother) then told me what happened. I don’t have the words to describe the incident. All I can say is they’re not human, not even animals. They’re not of this world. It was just gruesome and I hope no one ever goes through what she had to endure. She cried a lot, she was in a lot of pain. And as soon as she saw her mother and brothers she cried again. But after that she was a courageous girl, even trying to console us and give us hope that everything will be all right.”

The newspaper claimed in the interview with Badri that Doctors were forced to remove Jota’s intestines and as her conditioned worsened, they flew her to Singapore for specialist care on Boxing Day. During this ordeal, remembered Badri as he told the newspaper: “I told her everything would be OK and we’ll soon be back home. She was excited when we talked about going home and she smiled. I put my hand on her forehead, she asked me if I’d had any dinner and then she gestured for me to go to sleep. I held her hand and kissed it. I told her to take rest and not to worry and she closed her eyes.”

While Jyoti battled for life in hospital, thousands took to the streets to demand the hanging of the six accused and a new anti-rape law. But three days later on December 29 she had a fatal heart attack. The rape also received world wide condemnation from human rights activists and human rights bodies. Badri said he “desperately wanted [Joyti] to survive, even though she would have to live with a memory of that attack and get through her trauma. We’re so devastated that she’s gone. There’s a huge void in our lives. She was the centre of our universe. Our lives revolved around her. Her absence is so painful, a future without her is unimaginable.”

The distraught father also denied reports (as reportedly indicated in the apparent Zee news channel above) that Wanda was Jota’s boyfriend, insisting he was her friend and just a very brave friend who tried to save her. “There was no question of her marrying because we belong to different castes. She never expressed a desire to marry. She was concentrating on her studies and wanted a job first,” Badri told The Sunday Paper on 5 Jan following his daughter’s horrific death.

According to the newspaper, Badri also revealed that Jyoti often mentioned how much Wanda tried to save her. “She kept telling her mother he tried his best to help but they kept beating him with a rod”. He now cherishes the memories of his daughter and remembering her dream of being a doctor. Badri said the people of India gave his family “strength to cope up with our loss. I feel she’s not just my daughter but also India’s daughter.” “I used to read about rape incidents in the newspapers but never digested it much. We’re so thankful to the people who came out to protest against the barbarity,” he said. DNA tests have reportedly linked the five men and a 17-year-old from the bus with rape and murder.

Badri now hopes mothers and fathers will teach their sons to respect women, adding the “police cannot handle this on their own” but that “parents need to keep an eye on their children too.” While The Sunday Paper should be commended for respecting Badri’s wishes not to release Jota’s picture, saying it is for another day – he however, said it was enough for the devastated family to sanction the release to the world of their precious daughter’s name.

That the girl’s father had revealed her identity in an interview with revealed her identity to the UK’s Daily Mirror’s Sunday Paper, it was quite clear that the police did not have a case at all. BUT had her identity not been revealed it appears the police would have had a strong case in my opinion. And as The Australian Online reported minutes after the Badir’s interview with The Sunday Paper, the case has now been closed.

Court appearance

The five suspects were expected to appear before court on 7 Jan. According to a Reuters report, a prosecutor said the five were charged with murder, rape and abduction along with other offences and the magistrate had already given them copies of the charges. Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal reportedly closed the hearing to the media and the public, saying “keeping in view the sensitivity of this case that has risen, the proceedings including the inquiry and trial are to be held in camera” before ordering people not connected with the case out of the courtroom. But the accused have since pleaded not guilty, including the 17-year-old who was to be tried separately as a juvenile.

Indian Public prosecutor Raja Mohan told Reuters that two of the accused, Vine Sharma and Pawn Gupta, moved an application on Saturday requesting they be made “approvers”, or informers, against the other accused, Mukesh Kumar, Ram Singh and Kasha Thackeray. Mohan said the state (emphasis) was seeking the death sentence given the “heinous” crime. “The five accused persons deserve not less than the death penalty”.

Despite his father revealing the rape victim’s name on Sunday to the British newspaper on Sunday, Reuters instead chose not to reveal her name. But Badri has insisted the family “[doesn’t] want to hide her [Jota’s] identity”, that “there is no reason for that”. He however cautioned that Jota’s identity “should not be misused,” according to a Reuters report. It is therefore not clear whether Badir, too, will be charged by the Indian state for revealing the identity of the rape victim whom he claimed is his daughter. This is because revealing the identity of a rape victim is reportedly against the law in Indian as in most countries, including South African, especially without the consent of the victim and or his/her family because this is meant to protect their privacy and keep the media glare in a country where the social stigma associated with rape can be devastating.


One thought on “Will Indian police authorities win a criminal case against Zee News channel for revealing the Indian rape victim’s identity?

  1. Pingback: What it takes to fight rape « Akanyang Africa

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