'Rape Victims' Names in Shinde's Statement Was Not Unlawful'

New Delhi
'Rape Victims' Names in Shinde's Statement Was Not Unlawful'

The mention of names of minor rape victims of Bhandara in Parliament by the then Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde resulted from "heavy work load" of ministry officials who prepared his statement and was not "unlawful", the Home Ministry has concluded in its enquiry.

The explanation given by the Ministry officials did not go well with Shinde who had to face embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha on March 1, 2013 when he named the victims of the Bhandara rape incident. The remarks had to be expunged at the intervention of then Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley.

"I express my displeasure," he wrote on the explanation submitted by the Ministry officials.

The Ministry did not conduct any "formal inquiry" into the gaffe committed by the officials but the then Home Secretary R K Singh merely called for an explanation from the officers concerned even though Shinde had sought for an inquiry into the matter.

Even the queries posed under the Right to Information Act remained unanswered for 10 months in gross violation of the mandatory one month given under law for responding to such applications.

It was only after the Central Information Commission issued a show cause notice that the response was sent.

"When a matter is already in the public domain, the names creeping in the note to be read out in Parliament, can be considered avoidable but not necessarily unlawful," the Centre-State relations (CS) division of the ministry has said in the note, accessed under the RTI Act.

The officials of the CS Division, during the enquiry ordered by Shinde after the goof-up, said the prohibition on disclosing names of the rape victims, as given in section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, became "infructuous" as local media had already made public their names.

"The CS Division has work load relating to Parliament and to some extent heavy workload also contributed to the error creeping into the statement which was prepared for the incident," they said in the explanation accessed under the Right to Information Act.

It said when the girls went missing local television channels and newspapers had published details of these girls to trace them. After two days their bodies were found.

"As the public disclosure of the identities had already been made previously in the media the prohibition specified in Section 228A of the IPC had become infructuous," it said.

The Parliamentary wing of the Ministry also concurred with the CS Division of the Ministry saying the error made by CS division was not intentional and it was "assumed by the concerned officers" in the division that since the names of the girls were already in the public domain, there was no harm in incorporating their names in the statement also.

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