Gangrape clips on Facebook and WhatsApp – for measures to curb circulation of rape videos

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The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Friday to work out a mechanism to block videos of rapes from being uploaded on social networking and communication platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp.

A special social justice bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit initially felt such measures would amount to banning the use of mobile phones the device most used to film such crimes but later relented and issued the directive. “It is like blocking mobile phones itself,” the bench observed after Sunita Krishnan, founder of NGO Prajwala that has filed pleas to highlight the threat, sought the court’s immediate intervention.

Last week, four Mumbai boys gang-raped a teenaged schoolmate and uploaded the clip on WhatsApp. A similar incident occurred a fortnight back in Kerala, Sunita told the court.

Sunita, who appeared in person, told the bench it was necessary to ensure that Facebook which also owns WhatsApp does not allow videos of such horrendous crimes to be uploaded. She sought a court directive under which either the information technology ministry or Facebook would be required to develop an application that would automatically block such offensive material.

The bench then asked additional solicitor-general Maninder Singh, representing the Centre, to examine the suggestion and come up with a response. The matter will come up again after four weeks.

Hearing the matter in August, the bench had directed the Centre to immediately launch a crackdown on rape videos on sites like YouTube and Facebook and consider setting up a helpline for complaints against such crimes. In a previous hearing, Sunita had made a startling revelation in court, saying she had in her possession over 90 rape videos uploaded on social media.

Since there was no mechanism for lodging complaints, her NGO said it was seeking the help of the top court for directing the Centre to take effective steps for setting up a helpline to deal with the increase in such crimes.

Sunita had told the court that such videos were still available on social media and that rapes were being committed for being filmed with impunity. Such elements had the audacity to put their heinous acts in public domain, she added.

In February this year, the apex court had taken suo motu cognisance of a letter written by Sunita’s NGO to then Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu. A pen drive, containing two such rape videos, was sent long with the letter and action sought against the culprits.

The NGO has sought a CBI probe in the matter and the setting up of a task force to deal with such Internet-driven sexual crimes, besides the helpline that it wants established in the Union home ministry.

The organisation has also urged the court to direct the Centre to create a national register containing details of those convicted of sexual crimes, including molestation, stalking and rape.

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