Mumbai: In a significant ruling the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently held that not only the electronic and the print media but even the common public that uses social media must refrain from either directly or indirectly disclosing the identity of rape victims. The HC said the media should act with circumspection and exercise restraint in such cases.
A bench of Justices Tanaji Nalawade and Mukund Sewlikar noted that despite detailed guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for the media to follow while reporting rape cases, there has been a breach of the same.
The judges, while issuing additional guidelines said the same would be applicable not only on the electronic and print media but even on common public who use social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc.
"The media and such citizens must not publish the names of the parents or relatives of the victim. Even the relationship between the accused and the victim need not be published," the judgment reads.
The bench further said that the details so as to the residential or occupational address of the victim, her relatives and also of the accused must not be published.
"If the victim is a student, name of the school or college or any other educational institution or private coaching class or classes which the victim has joined for pursuing her hobbies such as music, drawing, dance, stitching, cooking etc. must not be published," the judges held while adding the even the other details pertaining to the victim's family background must not be reported.
"The media should act with circumspection and is expected to observe restraint. Publishing news item in detail thereby disclosing identity of the victim itself indicates that the media does not observe self-restraint," the judges said.
The bench, however, clarified that it doesn't mean that the media deliberately divulges these details.
"But in their zeal to publish the news item fast, appropriate care is not taken in some cases and the news is reported by which the victim’s identity becomes known to the readers," the judges pointed out.
As far as the interviews of victim's or their relatives by the electronic media in particular are concerned, the bench noted that their faces often blurred but sometimes it is easy to recognise the person through their voice.
"We hope that the electronic media will show restraint in holding interviews of the victims and/or their relatives and would take all precautions to avoid and prevent disclosure of the identity of the victim," the judges said.
The bench further noted that during court proceedings such as framing of charges, remand, bail, recording evidence etc. the name of the rape victim is often revealed.
"Therefore, during all the proceedings mentioning name of the victim should be avoided. Instead s/he should be referred to as ‘X’ or any other alphabet the Court deems fit and proper," the judges held.