A writ petition, in the nature of public interest litigation, has been filed before the Supreme Court by Youth Bar Association of India through its National President Sanpreet Singh Ajmani, for issuance of order or direction for framing of guidelines regarding protection of identity, reputation & integrity of the individuals, allegedly accused of "Sexual Offences", till completion of the investigation regarding the "truthfulness" of such allegations.
Petitioner says in the petition that due to the fast-changing nature of the society and easy access to the social media, people nowadays restrain themselves using their logical mind behind any news and rumors and reach the consequences instantly.
Petition says further that as far as the protection of "integrity" in the modern times goes, protection is lent only to the "victim" and not the "accused", who might have been falsely or maliciously implicated and same goes against the well-settled principle of criminal jurisprudence that "a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt."
Considering how false accusation could ruin a person's life, petition says that "false accusation sometimes destroys the entire life of an innocent person and there has been instances where the person who has been falsely implicated have even committed suicide. It does not only destroy an individual's life but creates a social stigma to the family members too. Need of the hour demands that some preventive measures must be taken so as to avoid and to deal with such situations in the interest of justice."(sic)
Petition highlights how Section 228-A of the Indian penal Code provides punishment for disclosing the identity of the victims but does not provide any safeguard for protection of the identity and integrity of the accused in case of false accusation.
Reputation an invaluable asset
Quoting Latin writer Publilius Syrus who said that "a good reputation is more valuable than money" and William Shakespeare's Othello "Good name in a man and a woman, dear My Lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls......... ", petition brings home the point that "reputation" is an invaluable asset and dear to every person. Petition says that in present times where people are more active in virtual world, the reputation and integrity of a person is always an easy target to destroy. It reads, "It is true that the Constitution of India has guaranteed its citizens the right to free speech but it doesn't mean that it shall be misinterpreted and consequently anyone can be defamed."
Petition to prove its point gives example of S.Nambi Narayanan (who is an Indian scientist and aerospace engineer and also awarded India's third highest civilian award the Padma Bhushan) who was falsely charged with espionage and was later on cleared of all charges and had to put up a long fight to save his reputation. Petition says that no amount of compensation could restore what he had lost in the process.
Emphasizing on the role of judiciary and its duty towards people, petition seeks for framing of guidelines by the court to protect the integrity of a person who perhaps might have been falsely alleged or implicated in any sexual offence. It asks court to frame the guidelines like it had earlier framed in Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan to protect the integrity of victim and to safeguard the victim from facing the social stigma.
Petition reads that Supreme Court had on many occasions reinforced that the "right to reputation" is an integral part of Articles 21 and 19(2) of the Constitution of India.
It also says how the allegations of sexual harassment tarnishing the image, repute and goodwill of a person/s in the society and its adversely affecting his entire life in all terms even if, at later point of time he is found to be innocent, becomes a solid ground for filing the petition before the highest court of the country.
Read the Petition Here