Recently, the Bombay High Court (Aurangabad bench) released additional guidelines to bar print/electronic media as well as the public from publishing Rape victim-related information using social media that might “directly or indirectly” reveal her name.
T. V. Nalawade & Justice M. G. Sewlikar’s Bench of Justice heard the appeal of one Sangita (mother of a survivor of rape) who requested advice from the Print and Electronic Media that the name or identification of the victim of the rape could not be revealed.
Despite having the rules under Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code and directions issued by supreme court, the complainant claimed before the Court that in the case of Nipun Saxena and another Vs. Union of India and others, stated in (2019) 2 SCC 703 that Supreme Court issued directions the particulars of the crime (including her daughter) are reported in the print and electronic media in such a way that the victim’s name is in Divulgated variably.
The complainant has alleged that the survivor experiences physical and emotional distress attributable to the crime of abuse and the release of the press exposing the victim’s name leads the victim to suffer considerable mental anguish.
At the beginning, the Court stressed that not just physical trauma, but also emotional trauma is encountered by the survivor of a sex crime. She is going to have to endure these Agonies because of no mistake by them.
The Court further observed that Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code specifies that the name of the victim should not be revealed in respect of offences under Sections 376, 376-A, 376-B, 376-C, 376-D, or 376-E of the Indian Penal Code.
Taking account of the directions given in (2019) 2 SCC 703 by the Supreme Court in Nipun Saxena and another Vs. Union of India and others, the court noted. Despite the issuance of these rules, these crimes are published by the print media and electronic media in such a way that the name of the victim is known directly or implicitly developed.
The Supreme Court issued significant directions in the Nipun Saxena Case (supra) to protect the dignity of victim and dignity of family member of the victims of rape. 9 major directions were given by the bench consisting of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta.
Importantly, the High Court of Bombay observed that without specifying the name of the victim, the identity of the victim can be identified by presenting information as to the name of the victim’s parents or other relationships with the victim, the relationship between the accused and the victim, the address of the accused and the victim’s residence and other details.
The Court emphasized that in such situations, the media should behave with circumspection and that caution is required to be exercised,
Publishing a news story in depth while exposing the victim’s identity itself suggests that self-restraint is not exercised by the media. We do not mean to suggest that it is intentionally done by the media. But in their zeal to report the news item immediately, enough caution is not taken in some situations. The news is announced, and the name of the perpetrator is made clear to the readers/viewers.
In addition to the instructions of the Supreme Court in Nipun Saxena (supra), to prohibit the revealing of the name of the survivor, the Court gave such directions to print media, electronic media, people using social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, the Internet, Twitter, etc.
The Court ordered the print media, electronic media, social media consumers such as WhatsApp, Email, the Website, Twitter, etc. When supplying information/circulating information pertaining to crimes related to in Indian Penal Code Sections 376, 376-A, 376-B, 376-C, 376-D, or 376-E, as well as crimes under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, the following details shall not be published/disclosed in such a way that the victim is explicitly or implicitly identified: –
- The names of the victim’s parents or family.
- The accused’s connection with the survivor.
- The accused and the victim’s residential/occupational/work address and the village in which the victim and,
- Occupation of the victim’s parents or other partnerships and the office of the victim and the perpetrator or their parents or some other relative in such a case That the suspect will be found.
- The name of the school or college or some other educational facility or private institution, whether the victim is a pupil, Coaching lessons or workshops taken by the survivor to follow her interests, such as music, painting, dancing, sewing, cooking, etc. information of the victim’s family history.
Guidelines of proceeding,
In addition, the Court acknowledged that it is important to avoid specifying the identity of the victim when framing the charge. He/she should therefore be referred to as ‘X’ or some such alphabet deemed fit and appropriate by the Court.
When recording evidence, if the witness cites the victim’s identity, the Court shall report that the witness said the victim’s name, but the witness mentioned the victim’s name.’ Her name is not documented to hide her identity.’ And the accused can be referred to in the same way as is handled during the framing of the charge.
Importantly, the Court ordered that when recording evidence, if the witness is a suspect, his/her name should not be revealed. Her name, place of residence, age, occupation shall be kept in a sealed cover and may be referred to in the name column in the same way as defined when the address column, occupation column, is kept blank by the framing fee.
Furthermore, the Court ordered that the same protocol should be followed when the declaration under section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was registered.
When making a statement pursuant to section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Court shall refer the victim in the manner to which the victim is referred for the framing charge,”While recording statement under section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Court shall refer the victim in the manner she is referred to while framing charge”?
The Court further ordered that reference of the victim’s name should be omitted while referring the remand report to the Judge or the court concerned with remand, and therefore it should be referred to as ‘X’ or some other alphabet that the Prosecuting Officer finds fit and acceptable.
Finally, the Court expressed its expectation that in conducting interviews with the victims and/or their families and relatives, the electronic media would demonstrate restraint. To stop and discourage exposure of the victim’s name, it must take all measures.