NEW DELHI: It all began when Sunitha Krishnan uploaded an edited version of a gang-rape video on YouTube in the first week of February this year.
It was one of nine such videos that were being circulated as MMS clips.
A rape survivor herself, Sunitha asked viewers to help identify the rapists in what she called #ShameTheRapistCampaign.
She moved the apex court as police did not make any arrests, though the men in the videos were clearly visible.
When the CBI made the first breakthrough on March 24, 2015, by arresting Bhubaneswar-based builder Subrat Sahu on charges of raping a woman and filming the act, Sunitha felt her efforts had not gone in vain.
But now, the social activist is deeply disturbed. On Friday, Sunitha’s lawyer told a Supreme Court bench that she has received 90 new pieces of 'absolutely shocking' online footage, mostly from rape victims who want them to be probed by the CBI.
Justice Madan B. Lokur, who is heading a special bench in the court hearing social justice matters, has expressed shock.
“Is it possible to have a mechanism in place to deal with a situation like this? What is the cyber cell of the police in each state doing?” he asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh who represented the Centre.
“From most videos, it is clear that this is not the offender’s first rape. The ease with which the men go about the act...while one performs the heinous act, other two hold her legs tight and cover her mouth… while another man films it. In another video, spanning 8.5 minutes, there is a gang-rape of a girl by five culprits who are shown smiling, cracking jokes, recording the act and taking photos while they go about sexually assaulting the victim,” Krishnan, who runs Hyderabad-based NGO ‘Prajwala’, which fights for sexually-exploited women, told Mail Today.
Krishnan was gang-raped by eight men when she was barely 15 years old. She launched her NGO soon after.
Krishnan’s lawyer Aparna Bhat said: “I saw three seconds of one of the videos and I could not sleep for a week. In many videos, the girls are taken to a particular spot and what happens thereafter is secretly filmed and the videos are sold in the market.”
Though the apex court bench expressed concern and made several observations, it deferred any orders pertaining to the new videos.
ASG Singh said the court must, for the time being, focus on the few videos it had in its possession “or else it will be an unending process as there are millions and millions of such videos on various sites”.
Krishnan is upset. “I appreciate that the court, after taking of my letter and the videos I sent, directed a CBI probe. But the judges have to put in place a permanent mechanism to deal with such situations. I cannot become the national registry for all rape videos. Cyber cell does not take suo motu notice of the videos. There should be a complainant but sadly nobody wants to become a complainant as a million questions are asked,” she said.
“There should be a public-friendly system where the public can report such videos anonymously,” she added.
When the CBI, on March 24, 2015, arrested Sahu on charges of raping a woman and filming the act, the news made national headlines. It was reported that while Sahu had raped the victim, his accomplice had recorded it.
Among the nine videos, the CBI is probing eight under Regular Cases (RCs) and one under Preliminary Enquiry (PE). Six FIRs relate to gang-rape, abduction or kidnapping, and dissemination of video or image of sexual violence against women, the seventh pertains to rape, abduction or kidnapping and dissemination of video or image of sexual violence against women, and the eighth FIR pertains to making sexual act, capturing images without consent and dissemination of video or image of sexual violence against women.
The CBI’s PE relates to beating of unidentified small children by an unidentified man.
The CBI has announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh in each case for information on the unidentified accused.
Photos of the unidentified accused have also been sent to director generals of police (DGPs) of different states in a bid to arrest them.