The Supreme Court on Tuesday barred print, electronic and social media from publishing the names of dead rape victims or anything that can reveal their identity without the consent of the competent authority, saying that “even the dead have their own dignity”.
The court also asked the media to avoid sensationalism while reporting sex crimes involving children, saying “sensationalising” them “may” help “garner Television Rating Points (TRPs) but does no credit to the credibility of the media”.
Disposing of a petition which raised the question of disclosure of identity of rape victims, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta ruled, “In cases where the 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 exist, which shall be decided by the competent authority, which at present is the Sessions Judge.”
However, if the survivor is a major and authorises someone to disclosing her name, the same may be made public.
The judgment referred to recent media reports, where though the name of a rape survivor was not given, it was stated that she had topped the State Board Examination and which state she belonged to. The court said “it would not require rocket science to establish her identity”.
The court stated that the media has the duty to report every crime, but in cases of rape and sexual offences against children, they must do so without revealing the identity of the victims.
It added, “The media should refrain from talking to the victim because every time the victim repeats the tale of misery, the victim again undergoes the trauma which he/she has gone through…”
The court also directed that FIRs relating to rape and related crimes, and offences under POCSO “shall not be put in the public domain” as these reports would contain the details of the survivor or victim.
“…Some examples of matters where her identity will have to be disclosed are when samples are taken from her body, when medical examination is conducted, when DNA profiling is done, when the date of birth of the victim has to be established by getting records from school etc. However, in these cases also the police officers should move with circumspection and disclose as little of the identity of the victim as possible but enough to link the victim with the information sought,” the judgment added.