Trouble mounts for controversial journalist Barkha Dutt as the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights have asked the Delhi Police to investigate the matter of her revealing the identity of an infant, a victim of the Delhi riots. NCPCR wrote to Delhi police after complaints were filed against her, accusing her of violating Section 74 of the Juvenile Act which makes disclosing identities of minor criminals and victims a criminal offence.
A complaint was filed with NCPCR against Barkha Dutt by Forum for Indigenous Rights-North East, while another complaint was filed by Delhi Legal Forum. The complaints mentioned that by revealing the name of the infant, Barkha had jeopardised the safety of the victim and the victim’s family. Delhi Legal Forum also sent the complaint to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The forum urged the authorities to take exemplary action against Dutt and asked Twitter India to suspend her Twitter account.
Lodged formal complaint with chairperson @NCPCR_ and @MIB_India against a journalist called Barkha Dutt for gross violation of Section 74 of Juvenile Justice Act 2015— Delhi Legal Forum (@delhilegalforum) March 17, 2020
We urge the authorities to take strong punitive action against her. @TwitterIndia should suspend the handle. pic.twitter.com/Fmud0Ujnsx
The complaint was then forwarded by the National Commission for Protection of Children Rights (NCPCR) to the Deputy Commissioner of the Delhi Police, asking to enquire into the matter and to send an action taken report along with relevant documents within 10 working days of receiving the letter.
The complaint mentions that Barkha Dutt posted a tweet on March 16, 2020, revealing the identity of the infant victim, including photograph. In her post, Barkha says how a 10-months-old infant, who was carried by her parents in their car, was eaten by sticks and hurled on the road on February 24 during the Delhi riots. She also added that the victim’s collar bone was broken along with sharing the heart-rending pictures of the infant.
Thank you everyone who has helped with Baby Maryam after #Mojo report . Met her parents today and they said to give “dua” to all who have sent help. She will be moved to a different hospital tomorrow for better medical treatment. Glad to make some small difference to their lives https://t.co/NqJglxKl9I— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) March 18, 2020
When one of the Twitter users highlighted that it might be a gross violation of the infant’s privacy according to law, Dutt brazened it out, citing parent’s consent in publishing the photographs of the infant and claiming that some of the most iconic photos of Bhopal Gas Tragedy were of child victims.
you are wrong. Raghu Rai’s most iconic images from Bhopal Gas Tragedy were of the child victims. We have the parents consent in writing. Our job is to tell these stories. Any action against those of us who tell these stories would be one of petty hostility. But am ready. Do it— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) March 16, 2020
It may be noted that section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 makes it clear that the identity of a minor, be it an accused in a crime or a victim, the identity can’t be revealed. The law does not say that the identity can be revealed with the consent with parents, there is no such provision in the Act. A case in this regard is Nirbhaya, whose mother had revealed the real name of her daughter, and had wished that the real name is used, but still, media was not allowed the use the name and forced to continue with other names like Nirbhaya. The Bhopal gas tragedy happened before the provisions prohibiting identity of minors were inserted into the law. Therefore Barkha Dutt’s defence that no action was taken after the photos of child victims of the tragedy were published may not hold ground.
In addition to the complaint against Barkha Dutt, taking cognisance of a complaint filed by the Legal Rights Observatory group, the National Commission for Protection of Children Rights also wrote a letter addressed to the District Magistrate, South East Delhi, to raise the matter of the assembly of people including children and infants in Shaheen Bagh protests while the threat from the spread of coronavirus looms across the country.
Acting on LRO letter, NCPCR @NCPCR_ ordered DM- South East Delhi to enforce guidelines issued by Central Govt n @ArvindKejriwal Govt regarding #CoronaVirus #COVID2019 at #ShaheenBagh protests site where kids r exposed to virus spread threat ignoring warnings @KanoongoPriyank pic.twitter.com/CGnnj7e7c2— Legal Rights Observatory- LRO (@LegalLro) March 18, 2020
In the letter, the NCPCR ordered the District Magistrate to take necessary action and implement advisories issued by the central government and the Arvind Kejriwal government regarding the coronavirus at Shaheen Bagh protests where children and infant are exposed to the threat of the lethal virus.