Top
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
News Updates

Take Precautions To Avoid & Prevent Disclosure Of Rape Victim's Identity Even Indirectly: Bombay High Court Issues Directions For Media, Public & Courts

Sparsh Upadhyay
31 Jan 2021 7:10 AM GMT
Take Precautions To Avoid & Prevent Disclosure Of Rape Victims Identity Even Indirectly: Bombay High Court Issues Directions For Media, Public & Courts
x

The Bombay High Court (Aurangabad bench) recently issued additional guidelines to restrain print/electronic media as well general public, using social media, from publishing information related to Rape victim that could "directly or indirectly" disclose her identity. The Bench of Justice T. V. Nalawade & Justice M. G. Sewlikar was hearing the plea of one Sangita (the mother of...

Your free access to Live Law has expired
To read the article, get a premium account.
    Your Subscription Supports Independent Journalism
Subscription starts from
599+GST
(For 6 Months)
Premium account gives you:
  • Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.
  • Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.
Already a subscriber?

The Bombay High Court (Aurangabad bench) recently issued additional guidelines to restrain print/electronic media as well general public, using social media, from publishing information related to Rape victim that could "directly or indirectly" disclose her identity.

The Bench of Justice T. V. Nalawade & Justice M. G. Sewlikar was hearing the plea of one Sangita (the mother of a rape victim) who sought direction to the Print and Electronic Media that the name or identity of the rape victim should not be disclosed.

Petitioner's submission

The Petitioner stated before the Court that despite having the provisions under Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code and despite having the directions been issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Nipun Saxena and another Vs. Union of India and others reported in (2019) 2 SCC 703, the Print and Electronic Media are publishing the details of the crime (involving her daughter) in such a manner that the identity of the victim is invariably disclosed.

The petitioner also alleged that because of the offence of rape, the victim suffers physical and mental trauma and publication of the news thereby disclosing the identity of the victim, causes severe mental agony to the victim.

Court's Observations

At the outset, the Court underlined that the victim of sex offence undergoes not only physical trauma but also mental trauma. She has to undergo these agonies for no fault of hers.

The Court further noted that Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code mandates that the identity of the victim in offences under Sections 376, 376-A, 376-B, 376-C, 376-D or 376-E Of Indian Penal Code should not be disclosed.

Taking into account the guidelines issued by the Apex Court in Nipun Saxena and another Vs. Union of India and others reported in (2019) 2 SCC 703, the Court observed,

"Despite issuance of these guidelines, the Print Media and Electronic Media are reporting these offences in such a manner that the identity of the victim is established directly or indirectly"

[NOTE: In Nipun Saxena Case (supra) the Supreme Court had issued important directives to protect privacy and reputation of victims of rape crimes. The bench comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta had issued 9 important directives.]

Importantly, the Bombay High Court observed that without mentioning the name of the victim, the identity of the victim can be established by giving the details as regards the name of parents of the victim or other relations of the victim, relation of the accused with the victim, residential address of the accused and the victim and other details.

Underlining that in such cases, the media should act with circumspection and is expected to observe restraint, the Court remarked,

"Publishing news item in detail thereby disclosing identity of the victim itself indicates that the media does not observe self-restraint. We do not mean to say that the media does it deliberately. But in their zeal to publish the news item fast, appropriate care is not taken in some cases and the news is reported by which the victim's identity becomes known to the readers/viewers."

Guidelines Issued by the Court

To avoid disclosure of identity of victim the Court, in addition to the directions of the Supreme Court in Nipun Saxena (supra), the Court issued some directions to the print media, the electronic media, the people using social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Internet, Twitter etc.

The Court directed that the print media, the electronic media, the people using social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Internet, Twitter etc. while giving information/circulating information relating to offences under section 376, 376-A, 376-B, 376-C, 376-D or 376-E of the Indian Penal Code and the offences under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, shall not publish/disclose following information in such a manner that the victim will be identified directly or indirectly: -

  • The names of the parents or relatives of the victim.
  • Relation of the accused with the victim.
  • Residential/occupational/work address of the accused and the victim and the village at which the victim and/ or accused live.
  • Occupation of the parents or other relations of the victim and place of work of the victim and accused /their parents or any other relative in such a manner that the victim will be identified.
  • If the victim is a student, name of the school or college or any other educational institution or private coaching class or classes which the victim has joined for pursuing her hobbies such as music, drawing, dance, stitching, cooking etc. vi) Details of family background of the victim.

Guidelines for trial proceedings

Further, the Court observed that while framing charge, mentioning name of the victim should be avoided. Instead, he/she should be referred to as 'X' or any other alphabet the Court deems fit and proper.

The Court further directed,

"While recording evidence, if the witness mentions the name of the victim, the Court shall record that 'the witness stated the name of the victim but to conceal her identity, her name is not recorded.' And the victim should be referred to in the same manner as is done during the framing of charge."

Importantly, the Court directed that if the witness is a victim, his/her name should not be disclosed while recording evidence. Her name, place of residence, age, occupation shall be kept in a sealed cover and in the name column, she can be referred in the same manner described while framing charge keeping the address column, occupation column blank.

The Court further directed that the same procedure should be followed while recording statement under section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

"While recording statement under section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Court shall refer the victim in the manner she is referred to while framing charge", the Court said.

Also, while forwarding remand report to the Magistrate or to the court dealing with remand, the Court directed that mentioning of name of the victim should be avoided and instead, she should be referred as 'X' or any other alphabet the Investigating Officer deems ft and proper.

Lastly, the Court expressed its hope that the electronic media will show restraint in holding interviews of the victims and/or their relatives and would take all precautions to avoid and prevent disclosure of the identity of the victim.

In view of above directions, instant Public Interest Litigation was disposed of.

The Registrar (Judicial) was directed to bring these directions to the notice of:

  • The Registrar General of this Court for circulating to all the subordinate Courts;
  • the Principal Secretary, Home Department, Government of Maharashtra;
  • the Principal Secretary & R.L.A., Law and Judiciary Department;
  • the Secretary, Indian Broadcasting Foundation, New Delhi and,
  • the Secretary, Press Council of India, New Delhi

Case Title - Sangita v. The State of Maharashtra [Criminal Public Interest Litigation No. 1 of 2016]

Click Here To Download Judgment

Read Judgment

Next Story
Share it