Don’t reveal identity of rape victims: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday prohibited the media from publishing or airing the names or any material which may even remotely reveal the identity of victims of sexual crimes. “No person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media, etc. the name of the victim or even in a remote manner disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large. The bar extends to anything which can even remotely be used to identify the victim,” a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said in its judgment on Tuesday. The court held that the bar on disclosure under Section 228A(2) of the IPC was not confined to just the name of the victim but actually meant that the “identity of the victim should not be discernible from any matter published in the media.” “The intention of the law makers was that the victim of such offences should not be identifiable so that they do not face any hostile discrimination or harassment in the future,” Justice Gupta, who authored the verdict, observed. Special case The court further held that the name and identity of a victim who was either dead or of unsound mind should also not be disclosed even under the authorisation of the next of kin. Any exception to this rule should be decided by the competent authority, the Sessions Judge. It barred the police from putting in public domain FIRs under Sections 376 to 376E (the range of sexual offences under IPC) and those under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The documents disclosing identity of a victim should be kept in a sealed cover. Authorities to which a victim’s identity was disclosed by an investigating agency or the court are duty bound to keep it a secret. A victim need not reveal her identity while filing an appeal in a criminal court, the SC said. The judgment came on a writ petition by advocate Nipun Saxena highlighting the need to protect the identity of adult and child victims of rape and sexual abuse so that they are don’t face “ridicule, ostracisation and harassment.”

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