A rapist not only wreaks a traumatizing physical lesion on the body of the victim but more indelibly leaves an aggravating scar on the most cherished possession of a woman i.e. her dignity, chastity, honour and reputation. To protect the victim from the psychological and sociological torture and the mental agony that may follow the unfortunate incident of sexual violence, every society has an obligation to support the victims of sexual violence and ensure that their sanity is reinstated and they start leading a normal life.
But unfortunately in our country, the victims of rape or sexual assault are often exposed to rancorous intolerance and glaring ostracisation in the society. Such victims struggle to find themselves a job or to get married and assimilate within the societal precincts like any other normal human being. Our criminal jurisprudence also does not provide for any adequate witness protection programme and therefore, the need is much greater to salvage the victim and her identity.
Section 228A IPC:
Perceiving the exigency and surrendering to the social stigma of victimization after crime, Section 228A had been inserted in the Indian Penal Code by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 which makes the divulgence of identity of victims of certain offences, a punishable act. The offence under section 228-A is cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by any magistrate with a punishment of up to two years and a fine. Printing or publishing the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under Section 376, 376A to D is alleged or found to have been committed, has been made punishable under Section 327 of Cr.P.C.
Victims of such barbarity are not denuded of their fundamental right to privacy and deserve to be insulated against the vicious public comments. Various provisions have thus been specifically incorporated to ensure that the victim is not exposed to any further trauma by the relentless social victimization or ostracism pursuant to the revelation of her identity after the devastating act.
Impetus to women’s prerogatives:
In Charu Khurana and others v. Union of India and others (2015), speaking about the dignity of women, the Court held that
“Dignity is the quintessential quality of a personality and a human frame always desires to live in the mansion of dignity, for it is a highly cherished value.”
Furthermore, in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh v. Madanlal (2015), it has been avowed that
“Dignity of a woman is a part of her non- perishable and immortal self and no one should ever think of painting it in clay. There cannot be a compromise or settlement as it would be against her honour which matters the most. It is sacrosanct.”
Pursuant to the same, The Delhi High Court had issued notices and imposed fines on 12 media houses in April 2018 for disclosing the name and identity of the eight year old victim of the Kathua gang rape and murder case while forbidding all of them “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 bench had also directed that the statutory provisions pertaining to the privacy of victims of sexual offences and punishment for the revelation of her identity in any form must be widely publicized to thwart any further instance of such a violation.
The Supreme Court in the case of OmPrakash v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2006), had further enunciated that it would be appropriate if the name of the victim is not indicated even in the judgments of any Court of Law and the same position of the Apex Court had been already reiterated in several other cases like State of Punjab v. Ramdev Singh (2004); State of M.P. v. Shree Kant Sekhari (2004); etc.,
In the case of Nipur Saxena v. Union of India Ministry of Home (2018), Justices Lokur and Deepak Gupta pronounced that,
“No person can 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.”
Rampant transgression of the provision:
Regardless of all such clarifications made and penalties inflicted, nothing really seems to have been changed. Various news agencies have been increasingly using the name and identity of the rape victims in order to sensationalize the case and rally a proliferating TRP out of the same. In the recent case of Hyderabad where a veterinary doctor had been brutally raped and murdered, several media houses as well as social media users broke the law by publicizing the name of the victim, while posting her picture and other whereabouts.
Exasperated folks had been innocently breaching both the ethical and legal norms through those relentless forwards, each stripping the victim of her fundamental right to privacy, even though the higher judiciary had already conceded right to privacy as indispensable to the right to life in several cases like R. Rajagopal v. State of T.N. (1994) and PUCL v. UOI (1997).
It has been further held in the case of Nipur Saxena v. Union of India Ministry of Home (2018), that the identity of a rape victim who is no more should also not be made public as the dead have their own dignity.
In an outright transgression of all the above directives of the Court, several social media users manifested their outrage by sharing pictures of the victim along with long sympathizing captions condemning the ruthless inhumane act and the perpetrators. Myriad of protestors along the streets in different cities could also be seen holding placards that disclosed the identity of the deceased victim.
All this distinctly points out towards a prevalent vacuum of general awareness amongst the common populace of the country, who innocently breach several laws even at the expense of somebody’s Fundamental Rights. News channels that have a prodigious role to play in the same should be strictly functioning with due adherence to the law of the land and should exhort their viewers to do the same instead of just seizing an increasing TRP. It seriously is high time that we start appreciating and upholding the dignity and prerogatives of every individual around us!
The reverence of life is insegragably associated with the dignity of a human being who is basically divine, not servile. A human personality is endowed with potential infinity and it blossoms when dignity is sustained. The sustenance of such dignity has to be the superlative concern of every sensitive soul.
– Albert Schweitzer
“The views of the authors are personal“
1. (2015) 1 SCC 192
2.(2015) 7 SCC 681
3. Appeal (crl.) 629 of 2006
4. (2004) 1 SCC 421
5. (2004) 8 SCC 153
6. (2019) 2 SCC 703
7. (1994) 6 SCC 632
8. (1997) 1 SCC 301