The Delhi High Court today granted time to police to file their response to a plea seeking registration of FIR against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for allegedly revealing the identity of Dalit girl, who was raped and murdered in 2021, by posting a photo of he with her parents on social media platform X.

The counsel for petitioner Makarand Suresh Mhadlekar, argued that Gandhi had committed a serious offence but the Delhi Police was yet to register an FIR.

The counsel for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said there are no exceptions to the law protecting the identity of minor victims of sexual offences and the "police must register an FIR and take consequential action".

Observing that it would proceed further after police files their response, a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan asked the Delhi Police to file a status report in 10 days.

"Counsel for respondent no 3 seeks and is permitted to file status report in 10 days," the bench, also comprising Justice Mini Pushkarna, said, and listed the matter for hearing on December 21.

Advocate Tarannum Cheema, appearing for Gandhi, said no formal notice has been issued to be Congress leader yet on the PIL.

The lawyer for X said that Gandhi's account was temporarily suspended following the post in question, and subsequently, the post was also taken down by it.

The petitioner's counsel, however, alleged that the social media platform was trying to protect Gandhi and the post was made unavailable only in India, and thus, the offence was still continuing.

In 2021, social activist Makarand Suresh Mhadlekar had moved the high court seeking registration of an FIR against Gandhi for allegedly revealing the identity of the minor Dalit girl, rape and murdered that year, by publishing a photograph with her parents on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The nine-year-old Dalit girl had died under suspicious circumstances on August 1, 2021, with her parents alleging that she was raped, murdered and cremated by a crematorium's priest in southwest Delhi's Old Nangal village.

In an affidavit filed in response to the petition, the NCPCR has said Gandhi's conduct was in the violation of provisions of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, which makes it explicitly clear that any information including family details should not be published in any form which could lead to the identification of any minor victim.

The child rights' body also informed that "in view of the serious offence committed" by the Congress politician, it had forwarded the complaint to the Delhi Police and X for removal of the post in question and taking necessary action against his account.

Considering that the tweet was withheld in India and has not been "removed" completely, X's inaction was contributing towards disclosure of the identity of the victim in violation of Indian laws, it added.

On October 5, 2021, a bench headed by then Chief Justice DN Patel had issued notice to X, then Twitter, on the petition which alleged that Gandhi was "attempting to take political mileage out of the unfortunate incident".

The court had then refused to issue notice to other respondents, i.e. Gandhi, the Delhi Police and NCPCR on the public interest litigation (PIL) at that stage.

The plea has also sought initiation of appropriate legal action against Gandhi by NCPCR.

With PTI Inputs