In videos that were circulated on messaging service WhatsApp until recently, two women were seen being gang-raped by men who even smiled for the camera. Describing the videos as "shocking and scary," the Supreme Court today ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to immediately investigate them.
"It is a serious issue and something needs to be done. It is quite clear this issue is extremely serious and of great public importance," the court said today.
It remarked that the men appeared to be from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and were "Bengali-speaking." The three states, along with Odisha, have been asked to look for the rapists in the video.
The union home and IT ministries have also been served notice on the videos, which have fueled revulsion and horror.
The court took note of Hyderabad-based activist Sunitha Krishnan's complaint.
Dr Krishnan uploaded the videos on YouTube earlier this month, asking viewers to help identify the rapists in what she called the #ShameTheRapistCampaign. But the videos, believed to be six months old, were removed by YouTube, which said "it violates terms of service."
Ms Krishnan was gang-raped by eight men when she was 15. She said an acquaintance alerted her to one of the videos after receiving them on WhatsApp.
"10 seconds into the video, I was overcome. I had to stop as I needed to throw up," she had told NDTV. "People don't come forward when it comes to helping in getting the perpetrators arrested."
Determined to try and change that, she asked her husband, a filmmaker, to edit the video to protect the rape victim's identity and highlight the faces of the men who assaulted her.