The official Twitter handle of the Congress party today tweeted a cryptic message – Satyamev Jayate. Consequently, a report in Mid-Day indicated that Rahul Gandhi Twitter account has been unlocked days after the tech-giant had locked his account, pending him deleting his tweet where he had compromised the identity of a 9-year-old rape victim.
The Mid-day report, quoting sources, said that several other accounts of Congress party leaders, who had tweeted the same picture that compromised the identity of a minor rape victim have also been restored.
Satyameva Jayate— Congress (@INCIndia) August 14, 2021
When one checks Rahul Gandhi’s account, one sees that he has not tweeted yet. His last tweet by Rahul Gandhi was on the 6th of August. So how exactly do we know that Rahul Gandhi’s account has been restored and that Twitter has bowed down to Congress’ demands?
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had tweeted an image of him meeting the parents of the 9-year-old victim. We have already explained earlier how that is against the Pocso Act and also against the Juvenile Justice Act since it amounts to compromising the identity of the minor victim and the siblings the victim might have. NCPCR had then sent a notice to Twitter, asking the tech-giant to pull the tweet down given that it violated Indian laws. Following that, Twitter in Court had asserted that it had pulled the tweet down and locked Rahul Gandhi’s account.
Here is a screenshot of what the Twitter notice said after pulling down Rahul Gandhi’s tweet and locking his account.
The notice displayed after Twitter pulled the tweet down by Rahul Gandhi said “this tweet is no longer available”. This notice essentially meant that Twitter, on its own, had pulled the tweet down and made it unavailable to the public. However, Rahul Gandhi’s account had been locked and it would be unlocked if Rahul Gandhi deleted the tweet from his end as well.
When such a notice is served, the user (Rahul Gandhi in this case) would have got a notice on his account that asks him to delete his tweet, after which, his account would be unlocked, facilitating him to tweet again. However, till Rahul Gandhi deletes the tweet from his end, he would not be able to tweet further. In the meantime, Twitter, realising that the tweet was in contravention of Indian laws and also violated its own community standards, made sure that the tweet was not visible to anyone else. In place of the tweet by Rahul Gandhi, Twitter displayed the notice that said that the tweet was no longer available.
Since this notice was put up, no matter where a person tried to view Rahul Gandhi’s account from, that tweet would not be visible.
However, now, that has changed as Twitter has decided to bow-down to Congress.
When one tries accessing Twitter from Brave browser, changing IP settings to Japan, the tweet by Rahul Gandhi, that was earlier pulled down by Twitter, is now visible.
So how did this change happen?
When one looks at Rahul Gandhi’s account now from India, the notice that Twitter had earlier put up in place of his contentious tweet has changed from “This tweet is not available” to “This tweet by Rahul Gandhi is withheld in India in response to a legal notice”.
What does this change?
This means that Twitter has bowed-down to Congress and retracted on its previous notice. Essentially, this means that Twitter has now withheld the tweet in response to Indian laws but, Rahul Gandhi will now not have to delete his tweet to access his account again. Therefore, his contentious tweet compromising the identity of the minor victim will be visible from everywhere else, other than India, and Rahul Gandhi has escaped without any consequences and having to delete his tweet.
Times of India journalist has tweeted the supposed reason for Twitter catapulting to Rahul Gandhi. She says that Twitter has apparently for a consent notice from the parents of the minor victim that they are ok with their identity being revealed, thereby compromising the identity of their minor daughter who was allegedly raped and murdered.
BREAKING: @Twitter restores account access of Congress leader @RahulGandhi. Says it has received a consent letter from the Dalit Parents whose image was shared and after duly reviewing the same, account access has been restored. .@timesofindia— Swati Mathur (@SwatiMathurTOI) August 14, 2021
However, Indian laws have no provision for the kin of the minor victim to waive the law off with a consent letter.
What does the law say and how Twitter is imposing its own code over Indian laws
Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 prohibits the disclosure of identity of a child in any form of media and Section 23 of the POCSO Act, 2012 also states that no information/photo of a child should be published in any form of media which could reveal the identity of the child. This information under Section 23 of the POCSO Act, 2012 includes his/her name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of the child.
Section 74 of the JJ Act clearly states that no identifying information of the minor victim can be disclosed. It further says that the Board of Committee, as the case may be, which is holding the inquiry may permit such disclosure if it thinks it is in the interest of the victim. In most cases, it is the District Court Judge.
The POCSO Act is also clear with regards to the disclosure of the identity of a minor victim.
Section 23 of the POCSO Act clearly states that no person shall reveal the identity of the child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to the disclosure of the identity of the child.
Both laws have the provision for imprisonment and fine for those who break this law.
In fact, the government had in 2018 clarified that these laws would also apply to victims who were dead.
G Mohanty, media advisor to the NCPCR had said in 2018, “This is an important clarification made by the government as we have seen in many cases that glaring mistakes are made by police and media houses in many cases when it comes to children involved in sensitive cases. It is now clear that their reputation is to be protected even if they are dead.”
The JJ act also says that the violation of the provision can lead to imprisonment of up to six months or fine which may of up to Rs 2 lakh or both.
Speaking to OpIndia, NCPCR chief Priyank Kanoongo said that these laws are in place not just to protect the victim but also the siblings and other living relatives of the brutalised child. If the identity is revealed, it is possible that the other children of the house would be stigmatised and the reputation of the victim and the living relatives would be impugned. Therefore, even if the victim is dead, it is illegal to make any identifying details public. He further said that only District Session Judge can decide if the identity of the minor rape victim should be revealed if it thinks it is in the best interest of the victim. Further, he said that the parents too had no right to waive the law and allow the dissemination of such information.
It is therefore evident from the law that only a District Sessions Court Judge can allow the disclosure of the identity of the victim if it thinks it benefits the victim. The victim’s parents or Twitter has no right to determine whether the identity of the victim can be disclosed even if the parents give na consent letter.
Congress seems to be revelling in the fact that they have got the right, given by Twitter, to break the law of the land and get away with it, without even so much as deleting the tweet. Now, the identity of the minor victim can be compromised only by changing IP settings. That Congress and Rahul Gandhi consider this a “victory of the truth” proves how little they care about the victim and how much they care about playing petty politics over her brutal rape and death.