Hathras Rape Case: NGO moves Supreme Court seeking to highlight “false narrative” by media against Upper Caste community

Supreme Court of India
The Hindu

Synopsis: The applicant NGO argues that “purely speculative theories” were carried out by the media, taking in the caste identities of the victim and the accused in the Hathras rape case and accusing an entire section of the upper caste.

In relation to the Hathras rape case, an application was filed before the Supreme Court asking for the Court’s intervention to “review the narrative” allegedly peddled by media reports.

The applicant NGO claimed that it was working to uplift the economically weaker sections. In the Hathras case, it has expressed its reservations against invoking the caste of the victim as well as the accused.

In order to ensure the preservation of peace and harmony and to avoid tension between different cultures, the NGO says that there is a need for factual and genuine dissemination of news. This is where it becomes relevant to the role of the media and responsible reporting. The applicant argues that, by vilifying an entire population and attaching a caste angle in the offence is not a role the media should be playing.

Stop Rape
DNA India

It needs no stress that news reporting on such occasions tends to appeal to speculative theories that can only lead to cause serious harm the nation’s already fragile social fabric and set back its pursuit of achieving the laudable constitutional objectives of equality and fraternity.

The applicant NGO contends that “purely speculative theories” were carried out by the media, both print and digital media, bringing the names of the victim and the accused to the caste and blaming an entire division of the “upper caste.” However, even if, in view of subsequent events, this ‘theory’ is disproved, it will still have caused significant harm, argues the applicant.

The request also emphasises that the NGO is saddened that the occurrence took place and opposes it. It also defines the ongoing social injustice as a “blot on Indian society and democracy” on the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe groups.

The debate around the horrific incident, however, has a tone and tenor that appears to malign an entire community that is presented by the media as the “upper caste.” The applicant adds that it is only possible to see this as prohibited expression.

Citing section 153A of the Indian Penal Code as well as Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, the NGO argues that in situations such as this, public order and public peace are essential considerations which must be taken into account while exercising freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The applicant adds that the protection of fundamental law precludes the State from enacting any law that imposes fair limitations on the exercise of the right, in the interests of the sovereignty and legitimacy of the State, in the welfare of the State, in the friendly ties with foreign States, in the interests of public order, in the interests of decency and morality and in relation to the contempt of the court.

The request states that while the media do not seek a gag, the Court should call for reports to evaluate the enforcement of existing rules.

The NGO argues that it aims to highlight the media reporting carried out in relation to the case of Hathras, where the coverage indicated that the crime was a caste-based one without ascertaining the veracity of that angle and even before the investigation was concluded.

The application has been filed through Advocate Suvidutt MS.