New Delhi | The Delhi High Court on Wednesday disposed of a petition seeking registration of an FIR against Rahul Gandhi for revealing the identity of an alleged rape victim, after taking note of the submissions by the Congress leader, the city police and social media platform X that the post has been taken down.
Advocate Tarannum Cheema, representing Gandhi, told a bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora that the tweet was withheld in India and has been taken down internationally.
The counsel for social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), where the tweet was posted, also confirmed that Gandhi deleted the tweet which revealed the identity of the minor Dalit girl who was allegedly raped and murdered before being cremated in haste.
Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi, representing the Delhi Police, submitted a status report stating that an FIR was registered against Gandhi in 2021 and the investigation in is still going on.
He said unless the main crime of rape was proven, the subsequent act of publishing the identity of an alleged victim does not become a crime, and investigation on the issue of revelation of the victim's identity by Gandhi was underway.
Disclosing the identity of a rape victim constitutes an offence under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code and is punishable with imprisonment up to two years and fine.
In the post, which stands geoblocked by the social media platform, Gandhi had published a photograph with the parents of the nine-year-old girl who died under suspicious circumstances on August 1, 2021, with her parents alleging that she was raped, murdered and cremated by a crematorium's priest in southwest Delhi's Old Nangal village.
Following the post, Gandhi's account was suspended by the social media platform for some time but restored subsequently.
The court was hearing a 2021 petition by social activist Makarand Suresh Mhadlekar seeking registration of an FIR against Gandhi for revealing the identity of the victim.
Noting the submissions of the parties, the high court said the prayers in the petition stand satisfied and disposed of the plea.
The court also noted the FIR was registered at the instance of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) registrar.
In response to the petition, the Delhi Police had said the plea had become infructuous after an investigation was ordered and the post made unavailable in India, and sought permission to file a status report in a sealed cover as it did not want to "scandalise" the matter.
Counsel for NCPCR had contended that the identity of a victim of sexual assault has to be protected from the moment the crime comes to light and that the protection does not come into force after the trial has concluded.
The counsel for the family of the child had objected to the discussion on the criminal case taking place in an open court.
The petitioner’s lawyer had also opposed the police's stand, saying they failed to understand the seriousness of the matter and the identity of the child has to be protected even at the stage when allegations are being made.
The petitioner alleged that Gandhi violated the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, which prohibit the disclosure of the identity of minor victims of sexual offences.
The plea also sought initiation of appropriate legal action against Gandhi by NCPCR.