The Rajasthan High Court recently refused to quash charges levied against a few journalists for disclosure of the name of a rape victim, refusing to accept their contention that the victim’s name had already been revealed in the judgment convicting her assailants.
Justice Pushpenda Singh Bhati pointed that printing of an article with the victim’s name was different from revelation of her name in a judgment, and observed, “There is no exception to Section 327(3) Cr.P.C. and printing and publication in the present case cannot be compared with the printing and publication of the judgments, as printing and publication of the judgments is a matter of record, which remains within the ambit of matured legal fraternity and would not be disclosed, until someone specifically goes for it. In case of printing and publication in the media, the same is to be consumed by an ordinary citizen, and thus, the embargo created under Section 327 Cr.P.C. ought to be strictly maintained, so as to ensure that the purpose of protecting the identity of the victim of sexual offence is fully served.”
The Court was hearing Revision Petitions challenging an order passed in November, 2006, wherein the Additional Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate had taken cognizance of an application under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits disclosure of identity of the rape victim during trial. The name of the German rape victim was disclosed in an article published in the India Today Magazine in March, 2006.
The Petitioners had now submitted that the reporting was bona fide, and that the name of the victim had, in fact, already been disclosed in the judgment pertaining to the conviction of her assailants. It was further submitted that the disclosure of the victim’s identity was made nine months after the completion of the trial, and hence, such disclosure did not hamper an ongoing proceeding or investigation, so as to fall within the purview of Section 228A.
The Petitioners had also brought to the notice of the Court that the victim had already voluntarily given interviews to several newspapers and media houses, without concealing her identity.
The State had, on the other hand, submitted that the publication of judgments with the victims’ names would not lead to authorization for publication of the victims’ names in articles.
Accepting the State’s contentions, the Court refused the quash the charges against the Petitioners, observing, “This Court is thus of the opinion that the purport of Section 327 Cr.P.C. is to declare illegality in any of the printing or publication of any matter in relation to the proceedings except with previous permission of the court regarding the offences under Sections 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or 376E IPC. Thus, on a bare reading of the provision of Section 327(3) Cr.P.C., it becomes clear that in the present case, an illegality has been committed, as the very purpose of enacting such law by the legislature was to protect the victim of sexual offence against the extreme humiliation and embarrassment.”
Further, noting that the lower Court was right in its observation that Section 327 of Cr.P.C. and Section 228A of IPC were broadly attracted in the case at hand, Justice Bhati observed, “The justification given by the petitioners that the name of the victim was already there in the public domain cannot be accepted, as according to Section 327 Cr.P.C. and Section 228A IPC, with particular reference to such illegality, the publication and printing in the ambit shall have a connotation, which has to be strict, so as to protect the dignity and confidentiality of the victim suffering such humiliating crime.”