The Union Home Ministry has barred media from printing or publishing in print, electronic or social media the name of sexual assault victims and wrote in a recent communication to states and Union Territories that the name of the victim can only be made public with permission from the court. The directive said the “identity of the victim if dead or of unsound mind should not be disclosed even under authorisation of the next of kin”.
In its letter, the ministry said, “In case of minor victims under POCSO, disclosure of their identity can only be permitted by the Special Court, if such disclosure is in the interest of the child.” The move, officials said, follows the gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district. Several rights groups have raised an objection in the manner in which the girl’s identity was disclosed during this time, officials explained.
While reiterating that “no person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media etc the name of the victim or identify her in a remote manner”, the MHA noted, “In cases where victim is dead or of unsound mind, the name of the victim or her identity should not be disclosed even under the authorisation of the next of the kin, unless circumstances justifying the disclosure of her identity exists, which shall be judged by the competent authority, which at present is the Session Judge.”
It added that the FIRs under section 376 (Punishment for rape), 376 (A) Punishment for causing death or resulting in persistent vegetative state of victim, 376 (AB) Punishment for rape on woman under twelve years of age, 376 (C) Sexual intercourse by a person in authority, 376 (D) (Gang Rape), 376 (DA) Punishment for gang rape on woman under sixteen years of age, 376 (DB) (Punishment for gang rape on woman under twelve years of age) or 376 (E) (Punishment for repeat offenders) of IPC and offences under POCSO shall not be put under public domain or uploaded or website.
It also directed police officers to “keep all the documents in which the name of the victim is disclosed in a sealed cover and replace these documents by identical documents in which the name of the victim is removed in all records which may be scrutinised in the public domain”.
After the 2012 Delhi gangrape, a petition filed in the Supreme Court sought appropriate measures for ensuring the safety of women at public places and suggesting that the FIRs of sexual assault cases should not be placed in the public domain.
The apex court last month made scathing remarks about protest rallies being taken out in the name of sexual assault victims. “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 top court had observed.
Besides this, the court instructed states and Union Territories to adopt other measures, including setting up of “one-stop centres” in each district within a year, to counsel and rehabilitate rape victims.
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