Photo: Mint  (Mint)
Photo: Mint (Mint)

Nirbhaya documentary: Delhi HC to hear PIL to lift ban on Thursday

The PILs say the ban infringes the ‘fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Wednesday fixed for Thursday the hearing on a public-interest litigation (PIL) seeking lifting of the ban on the telecast of a controversial BBC documentary featuring an interview of one of the four convicts in the 16 December gang-rape case.

A bench of justices B.D. Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva, which was scheduled to hear today the plea seeking direction to declare the act of banning the documentary by the ministry of home affairs, ministry of information and broadcasting and Delhi Police Commissioner as “illegal", listed it for Thursday.

The court had earlier refused to give urgent hearing after three law students — Vibhor Anand, Arun Menon and Kritika Padode — in their two separate PILs, said “fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression of public at large/ citizen under Article 19 of Constitution of India have been infringed due to government’s illegal action to ban the broadcasting of the documentary".

They approached the high court after a trial court on 4 March had banned until further orders the broadcast of the interview of 16 December 2012 gang-rape convict Mukesh Singh, allegedly conducted in July 2013 inside Tihar jail in New Delhi. Earlier, a trial court had restrained the media from broadcasting or publishing the interview of Mukesh Singh after the Delhi police moved the court seeking the restraint.

The information and broadcasting ministry had also issued an advisory to all television channels to not broadcast the documentary. The government had also sought an explanation from Tihar jail authorities over how the convict was interviewed while being in judicial custody.

Vibhor Anand in his petition, filed through advocate V.K. Anand, has sought lifting of the ban on the ground that it is “nothing but a honest look at the mind and mindset of one of the convicted rapists of the young woman".

Advocate Naman Joshi, appearing for other two law students, has also sought direction to the Bar Council of India to expedite action against the two lawyers —advocate A.P. Singh and M.L. Sharma — who had allegedly made derogatory anti-women remarks in the documentary.

Their plea also said that a direction be issued to the Supreme Court registry to constitute a three judge special bench to hear the appeals of the four death row convicts, which is pending since 25 August 2014. Initially the apex court in July had stayed the execution of the four convicts in the gang-rape and murder case.

The plea also said that “it is legally wrong to oppose the screening of the film after giving it legal approval and after the documentary makers fulfilled all legal commitments." It claimed that the parents of the gang-rape victim have not objected to the telecast of the documentary. It also said that as per social media the public at large wanted to see the documentary as within 24 hours of its being put up on YouTube, it was viewed by more 2.86 lakh people.

The victim, a physiotherapy student, was raped and assaulted with an iron rod after she was tricked into boarding an unregistered private bus to go home after watching a movie with a male friend on 16 December 2012.

Her male companion was badly beaten up and could not come to her rescue when she was assaulted in the bus. The two were later dumped naked and bleeding on the roadside. The woman was airlifted to a Singapore hospital for treatment where she died — 13 days after the assault — of the injuries inflicted upon her.

Mukesh, along with three others, was convicted and sentenced to death in September 2013 for the gang-rape and murder of the 23-year-old victim.