Delhi High Court on Protecting the Identity of the Rape Victim

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India’s daughter has again put to shame by the ghastly and monstrous act of rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu. The incident which took place in January has recently sent shockwaves and outrage across the nation. Both State and humanity has put to shame with this dastardly act. The incident has made the sanctity of the “noble profession” i.e. Law and religion questionable.

The aftermath of the incident has been more shameful which has subjected the state of the nation under both national and international criticism. The obstructionist tactics by the members of the bar to derail the due process of law and constant politicization of the incident has brought down the level of sanity in the country. Politicians, lawyers using national flags in support of the accused is nothing but dangerous turn our country has taken.

There is another issue which has been taken by the Hon’ Delhi High Court. Under the criminal jurisprudence, it is expressly opined that the identity of the victim would not be disclosed under Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code. The bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justice Arijit Pasayat and SH Kapadia had expressed that media houses often get away with disclosing the identity of the victim.

It is also important to understand the legislative intent behind the penal provision. In a diverse country like India with cultural, religious, caste and many other taboos, it becomes important to protect rape victims against these taboos. The purpose of the criminal justice system in the country is to punish the offenders for committing such heinous acts and rehabilitate the victim. The objective can be fulfilled if the victim’s identity is not disclosed. This would protect the victim from further victimization and ostracisation by the society.

The Delhi High Court therefore upholding the penal provision and its objective has taken the sou moto cognizance of the matter against the media houses for revealing the identity of the rape victims. The bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar had issued notice against the media houses from the reports from print and electronic media wherein the identity of the victim had been revealed. The bench has recently ordered the fine of Rs. 10 Lakh each as penalty for revealing the identity to be paid to the Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Fund within a week.

We all cherish the right of free press, but such a right cannot be extended beyond its limitations wherein their journalistic practices infringe the law of the land. Moreover, the issue has a social relevance and it is important the protect the family of the victim from further exploitation and harassment under the already prevalent politicized and communal cloud.

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