Identity of rape victims has to be protected: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the identity of rape victims has to be protected at all stages of the case, including during trial, and asked the media to refrain from sensationalising it for the sake of increasing viewership, known as television rating point (TRP).

A bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) reports and other documents related to such cases sould be handed over to the trial court in a sealed cover without disclosing the identity of the victims.

In such cases involving children from small villages, “even disclosure of the name of village may contravene the provisions of Section 23(2) POCSO because it will just require a person to go to the village and find out who the child is”.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Gupta advised the media to avoid sensationalising rape cases for the purpose of increasing the TRP and ordered that identity of minor rape victims cannot be disclosed even by their families.

Pointing to the harassment that a rape victim undergoes during the course of investigation and during the course of trial, Justice Gupta, who pronounced the judgment, said that the victim of rape is treated worse than the perpetrator of the crime and for no fault of the victim.

“Society instead of empathising with the victim, start treating her as an untouchable,” he said.

“A victim of rape/sexual abuse is treated like — pariah — and ostracised from the society,” the court said.

“A minor victim of sexual abuse needs to be protected even more than a major victim because a major victim being an adult may still be able to stand the social ostracisation and mental harassment meted out by the society. However, a minor victim will find it difficult to do so,” it added.

The court said this while addressing the question in what manner the identity of adult victims of rape and children who are victims of sexual abuse should be protected so that they are not subjected to unnecessary ridicule, social ostracisation and harassment.

The court dealt with the question of adult rape victims under the Indian Penal Code and that of children under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012.

The verdict came on a PIL by advocate Nipun Saxena, who had moved the court seeking steps for the safety of women in public places.

The petition was filed in the aftermath of the December 16, 2012, Delhi gangrape case.

“The media has not only the right but an obligation to report all such cases. However, it should be cautious not to sensationalise the same,” the court said further restraining the media from talking to the “victim because every time a victim repeats the tale of misery, the victim again undergoes the trauma which he/she has gone through”.

Reporting of rape cases, the court said, should be done “sensitively keeping the best interest of the victims, both adult and children, in mind. Sensationalising such cases may garner Television Rating Point (TRP) but does no credit to the credibility of media”.