NEW DELHI, June 5 - An Indian minister from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party said Thursday that rape was "sometimes right, sometimes wrong", amid mounting public anger over sex attacks against women.
Babulal Gaur, the home minister of central Madhya Pradesh state who is responsible for law and order, said rapes could be investigated as crimes only if they were reported to the police.
The minister also defended the government of northern Uttar Pradesh state, which has been the target of global outrage since the gang-rape and murder of two girls in the village of Katra Shahadatganj last week.
"This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong," Gaur, of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told reporters.
"Nothing can be done until there is a complaint," he said.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav faced severe criticism for his perceived insensitivity over the attacks on the low-caste teenage girls, who were found hanging from a mango tree after being sexually assaulted multiple times.
When asked by reporters about a sharp rise in rape cases in the country's most populous state, he replied with the words: "It's not as if you faced any danger."
Yadav's father Mulayam Singh -- leader of the Samajwadi Party -- was also the target of public anger in April when he told an election rally that he opposed the recently introduced death penalty for gang-rapists, saying "boys make mistakes".
Gaur stood up for the Yadav father-son duo Thursday, saying that "there is no information on who will rape someone, they happen unpredictably".
"What can helpless Mulayam or Akhilesh do about it (rape)?" Gaur said.
Modi, who won a landslide election victory last month, has yet to comment on his colleague's controversial comments but the BJP has distanced itself from Gaur, saying his views are not those of the party.
According to Indian government statistics, a rape occurs in the country every 22 minutes.
Activists say the figure is conservative, however, as many rapes go unreported in the nation of 1.2 billion where victims of sexual crime are often publicly shamed.
India toughened sex assault laws following the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012 which sparked nationwide protests, but the move has done little to stem the tide of sex attacks.
Just days after the Uttar Pradesh attacks, rebels shot dead a woman in northeast India on Wednesday after she resisted their attempt to gang-rape her.