Supreme Court restricts media from revealing the identity of the victims of sexual assault

The court directed the media to report such incidents in a sensitive manner without sensationalizing the matter and refrain from talking to the victims unless approached by the victim.

The Supreme Court today passed a verdict in relation to an application filed in the case of Nipun Saxena v Union of India barring the media from revealing the names and identity of the victims of sexual assault in any manner.

A Bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta observed that it is unfortunate that the victims of sexual assault are being treated as untouchables. The court also prohibited the police from putting in the public domain the FIRs filed in rape and sexual assault cases, including those against minors. “Police or forensic authorities cannot disclose the names of rape victims either, even with the parents’ consent. Also, FIRs of sexual assault cases, especially those involving minors, should not be placed on the public domain”, the court said.

In the main matter of Nipun Saxena v Union of India, the question relating to the interpretation of Section 23 of the Prevention of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code which prohibit the disclosure of the identity of the victims had come up before the court.

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The court while issuing the guidelines expressed concern over the social boycott of the victims and at the same time condemned taking out protest rallies in the name of the victims. “It is unfortunate that rape victims are treated as untouchables in our society,” the court said. “We are not impressed by victims being turned into icons at protest rallies. The identities of even the dead or those of unsound mind cannot be disclosed in any manner, even with the parents’ nod. Such an action will need the court’s permission.” the court added.

The court directed the media to report such incidents in a sensitive manner without sensationalizing the matter and refrain from talking to the victims unless approached by the victim.

The court has also included that even if the victim is dead, the identity of the person should not be disclosed, even if the parents give consent.

Senior Advocate Indira Jaisingh, who was acting as Amicus Curiae of the court in this case, requested the court to frame guidelines on how to report the cases of sexual violence claiming that the media runs a “parallel trial” in sub-judice matters. Referring to the Kathua gangrape case, Jaisingh claimed that the police interfere in the administration of justice by leaking information to the media even before filing of the charge sheet before a court. She said that the media had declared the accused in the Kathua rape case as innocent even before the charge sheet was filed.

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