No need of revealing identity of rape victims for public sympathy: Delhi HC
New Delhi, Apr 25: The names or photographs of a sexual abuse victim should not be revealed as such actions have long-term “detrimental consequences”, the Delhi High Court said today.
The observation by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar was directed at a media house, which apologised for revealing the identity of the eight-year-old girl who was raped and killed in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir.
The bench made the remark when the media house expressed reservation in paying the Rs 10 lakh compensation as ordered by the court, claiming it had revealed the identity of the victim to “arouse public sentiments and sympathy”.
Strongly disagreeing with the stand of the media house, the bench said, “The long-term consequences of revealing a victim’s identity are drastic and detrimental to the victim and her family. We do not need photographs of the victim for people to be sympathetic. As a result of revealing the identity of the victim, her whole family is ostracised and suffers.”
The court directed the media house to make the payment within 10 days from today, saying it cannot be put on a “special pedestal” when others have agreed to pay the compensation.
In its affidavit, the media house said it had published the name and photograph to “arouse public sentiments and sympathy”, ensure justice and under the belief that such publication was permitted in the instant case as the victim’s name and photos were circulating in the social media since January when her body was found.
It also said that referring to the girl by another name or non-publication of her photographs or redacting them from photos of the agitations, “would not have done justice to the victim”.
The court pulled up the media house for continuing to carry an article in one of its online blogs where the victim’s name was revealed, saying what was being advocated in the news report was that “the law can be changed by publication”.
After the amicus curiae and senior advocate Arvind Nigam informed the court about other media houses, including some Hindi newspapers, which also had revealed the victim’s identity, the bench issued notice to them and sought their replies by the next date of hearing on May 18.
The court also said that under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, even intermediaries like social media platforms Google, Facebook and Yahoo could be held liable for penal action for display and circulation of photos and name of the victim by others.
It issued notice to several social media platforms, including Google and Facebook, and sought their replies by the next date of hearing.
Meanwhile, several other media houses filed affidavits indicating they have complied with the court’s April 18 order.
The court on April 18 had directed 12 media houses to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for revealing the identity of the minor rape victim. It had also indicated that it may enhance the amount that has to be deposited by the media houses in the Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Fund.
The court, which had initially suggested imposition of Rs 25 lakh cost on each of the concerned media house, later said for the time being, they should deposit Rs 10 lakh each.
The bench had directed that wide and continuous publicity be given to the statutory provisions of the law regarding the privacy of victims of sexual offences and punishment for revealing their identities.
While Section 23 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act lays down the procedure for the media to report cases of sexual offences against child victims, Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with disclosure of identity of victims of such offences. The penal law provides for jail term of two years with a fine.
On April 13, the high court had issued notices to 12 media houses for disclosing the identity of the eight-year-old Kathua rape victim.
The court had prohibited all media houses “from effecting any publication including the name, address, photograph, family details, school details, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may have an effect of leading to the disclosure of the identity of the child victim”.
The eight-year-old girl from a minority nomadic community had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
The State police’s Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed the main charge-sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district last week. The charge-sheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.