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Home Ministry bars media houses from publishing names of sexual assault victims

By NL Team

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In a recent communication to states and Union Territories, the Union Home Ministry has barred the media from printing, and/or publishing on electronic and social media, the names of sexual assault victims.

The name of the victim can only be made public with permission from the court, according to an article in the Indian Express.

The directive said the “identity of the victim if dead or of unsound mind should not be disclosed even under authorisation of the next of kin”.

“In case of minor victims under POCSO, the disclosure of their identity can only be permitted by the Special Court, if such disclosure is in the interest of the child,” said the ministry in its letter.

While emphasising that “no person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media etc the name of the victim or identify her in a remote manner”, the MHA noted: “In cases where 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 exists, which shall be judged by the competent authority, which at present is the Session Judge.”

It (Home Ministry) also added that the FIRs under section 376 (Punishment for rape), 376 (A) Punishment for causing death or resulting in persistent vegetative state of victim, 376 (AB) Punishment for rape on woman under twelve years of age, 376 (C) Sexual intercourse by a person in authority, 376 (D) (Gang Rape), 376 (DA) Punishment for gang rape on woman under sixteen years of age, 376 (DB) (Punishment for gang rape on woman under twelve years of age) or 376 (E) (Punishment for repeat offenders) of IPC and offences under POCSO shall not be put under public domain or uploaded or website.

The letter directed police officers to “keep all the documents in which the name of the victim is disclosed in a sealed cover and replace these documents by identical documents in which the name of the victim is removed in all records which may be scrutinised in the public domain”.

In the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gangrape, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court which sought adequate and appropriate measures for ensuring the safety of women at public places and suggesting that FIRs of sexual assault cases should not be revealed in the public domain.

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