The Supreme Court today cleared hurdles coming in the way of CBI investigation into posting of rape videos on WhatsApp, by asking it to take over probe from Uttar Pradesh police relating to an FIR lodged at Sitapur district in which three accused are already out on bail.
“We direct that investigation in the FIR lodged in 2014 at Sitapur (UP) is transferred to the CBI…We also make it clear that the CBI can conduct further investigation and file fresh charge sheets in the case,” the social justice bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit said.
The court’s direction came when Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for CBI, said that there can be a legal bar as UP police had already registered an FIR in one of the matters where accused were charged under milder penal provisions and they are currently out on bail.
“There cannot be two FIRs in one incident. We need a court order on this,” the ASG said and submitted the status report to the bench in a sealed cover on the probe conducted so far in the sensational case.
Expressing satisfaction over the progress made by CBI in the probe, the bench said that they have registered eight regular cases (RCs) and one PE (preliminary investigation) and so far, identified culprits in two cases.
The photographs of culprits have already been shared with the DGPs of states concerned and they are being publicized also and moreover, the agency has also announced a reward of Rs one lakh for the informant, the court said after perusing the status report.
In one of the videos, it appeared that the offence of sexual assault has been committed outside the country and the probe agency taking steps to verify it, the bench said.
The ASG assured the court that the agency will ensure that the identity of the victims are not disclosed.
On the issue of blocking of websites, where offensive sexual assault videos were posted, he said, “it is being discussed at higher levels”.
The bench, meanwhile, took note of non-filing of reply by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on alleged inaction for over 20 days on posting of rape videos. The ASG said that it would be filed shortly.
At the fag end of hearing, the bench today declined the plea of a lawyer appearing for an NGO which had written to the CJI about the incident, that she be given information about the progress made in the probe.
“Let them (CBI) do their job. You (lawyer) should not bother about the fact that who is arrested and from where,” the bench said.
The bench, which had earlier imposed fine on Telangana for not providing details of progress made by state police into a case relating to an attack on the car of one of the office bearers of the NGO, however, expressed satisfaction over the probe conducted so far in the matter.
Earlier, the court had taken strong exception to alleged inaction by the Centre for over 20 days on a complaint relating to posting of two rape videos on WhatsApp.
The remarks had come after court inquired about the action taken by the MHA which was provided with all the information and rape videos on February 10.
Prior to that, the apex court had taken suo motu note of the letter, written by Hyderabad-based NGO Prajwala, on posting of two rape videos on WhatsApp and had asked CBI to launch a probe forthwith to nab the culprits.
The NGO, which provided the videos in a pen drive along with the letter to the CJI, had said that one video, which is 4.5 minutes long, shows a man raping a girl while another man is filming the heinous act.
The other video, spanning 8.5 minutes, relates to gang rape of a girl by five culprits who have been shown smiling, cracking jokes, making a video and taking photos while they went about sexually assaulting the victim, it said.
The court had then issued notices to central ministries of Home Affairs and Information Technology and asked the MHA to “forward the pen drive/DVD” to the CBI Director “forthwith” for the investigation.