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Rape Trials: Media Conducts Parallel Trials In All Sensational Cases, Submits Indira Jaising, SC May Seeks Press Council’s Stand

Amicus Curiae in the Nipun Saxena PIL hearing Senior advocate Indira Jaising today 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.

At that juncture a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and S Abdul Nazeer said they can consider issuing notice to the Press Council of India.

“What is the stand of the Press Council. Let us know what they say on it we will issue notice to the PCI and seek their response”, said Justice Lokur.

The issue was raised during the hearing of the matter in which the supreme court is inviting suggestions on framing a victim compensation scheme and issuing directions regarding rehabilitation of victims of sexual assault.

“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”, Jaising 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”, said Jaising.

“They are interviewing witnesses, and declaring the accused innocent. In a way they are prejudicing the trial”, she added

In significant directions 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.

During the last hearing the NALSA had told Just 5 to 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 of NALSA told the bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta 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.

Rajasthan: 3,305 FIRs registered in 2017 and only 140 victims received compensation under these schemes.

Bihar: 1,199 FIRs of sexual assaults lodged in 2017 but only 82 victims were compensated.

Rathi said a detailed reports regarding other states will be filed soon.

During the earlier hearing, Jaising, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, referred to the victim compensation scheme proposed by the NALSA for the victims of sexual assaults and said they wanted to have two vital additions in the scheme, the funds for which was earlier shared with the Centre.

Jaising said the police must mandatorily inform the legal services authority of the state government about the lodging of FIRs in sexual assault cases so that the process of giving compensation to the victim can be expedited.

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.

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