The Supreme Court today held that the identity of rape victims who have died or are of unsound mind cannot be divulged even with the consent of the parents. “The dead too are entitled to their dignity”, the court expressed.
The bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta lamented that victims of sexual assault are often subject to even worse treatment than the perpetrators themselves by the society.
The bench observed that the victims, for no fault of theirs, are regarded as untouchables and the society tends to blame them only for what transpired with them.
Noting that it is for the judges to decide if any disclosure is in the public interest, the bench also barred the uploading of FIRs in instances of rape and those under the POCSO cases. It is not permissible even to upload the contents of the FIR after blurring the identity of victims; the FIRs, as a whole, cannot be uploaded at all - the bench made it clear.
Amicus Curiae in the Nipun Saxena PIL hearing Senior advocate Indira Jaising had raised in Supreme Court the issue of rampant “media trial” and called for self-restraint or self-regulation by the electronic and print media or said otherwise the Press Council of India must step in.
The issue was raised during the hearing of the PIL by Advocate Nipun Saxena in which the Court court is dealing with the rehabilitation of and compensation for the victims of rape and other forms of sexual assault and acid attack.
“Now look what we are seeing. There is a parallel trial going on in the media in all sensational cases. Look at the Kathua matter. Witnesses are being interviewed and the media itself pass judgment, say that the accused are innocent”, Senior Counsel Jaising, appointed Amicus Curiae in the matter, said.
“The media cannot comment on a sub-judice matter and they can only do factual reporting. This cannot go on in a pending matter. Media should have restraint and self regulation. Press council of India has a responsibility”, she submitted.
“They are interviewing witnesses, and declaring the accused innocent. In a way they are prejudicing the trial”, she added.
In significant directions issued recently, the bench had in the Muzzafarpur shelter home rape case hearing said minor victims of such crimes should not be interviewed, except by the State child rights bodies, as it would have serious impact on their welfare and mental wellbeing, and also asked the print, electronic and social media not to publish or display photos of victims of sexual abuses, even in a blurred or morphed form, in any case across the country.
The Apex Court had asked the National Legal Services Authority(NALSA) to set up a committee of about 4 or 5 persons who can prepare model rules for victim compensation for sexual offences and acid attacks.
The NALSA had informed the court that only 5-10% of rape and other types of sexual assault victims were getting compensation under the Nirbhaya and other such schemes.
Referring to the figures of Andhra Pradesh, S. S. Rathi, Director, NALSA relayed that out of 901 cases lodged last year, only one victim has received compensation. As per the NALSA data, out of 1,028 cases registered in 2017 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in the state, only 11 victims got compensated.
In Rajasthan, 3,305 FIRs were registered in 2017 and only 140 victims received compensation under these schemes.
Further, in Bihar, while the number of FIRs registered last year was 1,199, only 82 victims were compensated.
It is to be noted that on March 27, the Supreme Court expressed anger as none of the states and Union Territories, except Sikkim, filed affidavits specifying amount they received by under the Nirbhaya Fund towards victim compensation and details of how much of that amount has been disbursed to victims of sexual assault.