Don't reveal rape victims' identity for public sympathy: HC

The court directed the media house to make the payment within 10 days from Wednesday, saying it cannot be put on a 'special pedestal' when others have agreed to pay the compensation. PTI File Photo

The names or photographs of a sexual abuse victim should not be revealed as such actions have long term "detrimental consequences", the Delhi High Court said on Wednesday.

The observation by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar was directed at a media house, which apologised for revealing the identity of the eight-year-old girl who was raped and killed in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The bench made the remark when the media house expressed reservation in paying the Rs 10 lakh compensation as ordered by the court, claiming it had revealed the identity of the victim to "arouse public sentiments and sympathy".

Strongly disagreeing with the stand of the media house, the bench said,"The long term consequences of revealing a victim's identity are drastic and detrimental to the victim and her family. We do not need photographs of the victim for people to be sympathetic. As a result of revealing the identity of the victim, her whole family is ostracised..."

The court directed the media house to make the payment within 10 days from Wednesday, saying it cannot be put on a "special pedestal" when others have agreed to pay the compensation.

In its affidavit, the media house said it had published the name and photograph to "arouse public sentiments and sympathy", ensure justice and under the belief that such publication was permitted in the instant case as the victim's name and photos were circulating in the social media since January, when her body was found.

It also said that referring to the girl by another name or non-publication of her photographs or redacting them from photos of the agitations, "would not have done justice to the victim".

The court pulled up the media house for continuing to carry an article in one of its online blogs where the victim's name was revealed, saying what was being advocated in the news report was that "the law can be changed by publication".

After the amicus curiae and senior advocate Arvind Nigam informed the court about other media houses, including some Hindi newspapers, which also had revealed the victim's identity, the bench issued notice to them and sought their replies by the next date of hearing on May 18.

The court also said that under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, even intermediaries like social media platforms Google, Facebook and Yahoo could be held liable for penal action for display and circulation of photos and name of the victim by others.

The court on April 18 had directed 12 media houses to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for revealing the identity of the minor rape victim. It had also indicated that it may enhance the amount that has to be deposited by the media houses in the Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Fund.

 

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