A shocked Supreme Court today pulled up the state governments of Uttarakhand and West Bengal and summoned its top officials for naming rape victims including minors in the affidavit pertaining to payment of compensation to them under the Nirbhaya Funds scheme and called it a “criminal offence” and a “brazen violation of the provisions”.
The bench was hearing the PIL pertaining to the issue filed by Advocate Nipun Saxena. Expressing surprise at the naming of the victims, amicus curiae in the matter senior advocate Indira Jaising said: “the whole victim protection regime has become vulnerable”.
The affidavit filed by Uttrakhand, in fact, contained several other identities like their age, parent’s name and full addresses.
Justice Madan B Lokur also did not spare the Advocate On Record (AOR) and counsels for the states telling them sternly that even they can be punished for the offence and slammed them for blindly filing the affidavit without verifying.” What is this going on? I don’t understand. Do you know AORs have some responsibility? You cannot be acting like a peon. Do you know it (naming rape survivors) is an offence, you can be prosecuted under the IPC ?”
A bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta has sought an explanation from the Joint Secretary in Women and Child Department of West Bengal and Additional Secretary, (Home) in Uttrakhand government, the officials who filed the affidavits and summoned them. They are to be present before the court when it takes up the matter again after three weeks. “This is least to say shocking”, said Justice Gupta.
“The state government of Uttarakhand and West Bengal have filed affidavits with names of victims. This is highly objectionable and contrary to law and amounts to a criminal offence”, the bench noted in the order.
When the AOR for Uttarakhand said “I will withdraw..i will take it back”, Justice Lokur said “we will not allow you to withdraw. Let it remain in a sealed cover with us. We are calling the deponents, the officials who filed such an affidavit and let them explain”.
Sparks flew in the last hearing on February 15 also when Justice Lokur was angry to learn that Madhya Pradesh, which is among the state that receives the highest amount under Nirbhaya fund scheme was only disbursing Rs 6,000 to 6,500 to victims of sexual assault and asked “you value a rape at Rs 6,500 ?.. are you doing a charity ?”
As per Section 228A IPC whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C or section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.