The 19-year-old Dalit girl who stated that she was gangraped on September 14 succumbed to her injures this morning. Soon after, Twitter users trended hashtags like #Hathras and #JusticeFor*******.
In December 2018, following the Nipun Saxena Vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court of India said that under no circumstances can the media reveal the identity of a victim of sexual crimes. The Court also clarifies that their reference to the term “media” includes press, electronic and social media.
Several celebrities like Virat Kohli, Kangana Ranaut, Manoj Tiwary, Suresh Raina, Sophie Chaudhary, along with politicians and commentators like Tehseen Poonawalla, Danasari Anasuya, Vivek Bhansal, Prithi Gandhi and others ended up publicly naming the victim while using the hashtag.
While visiting Aligarh’s Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College, Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Raavan had also posted a video of the victim inside the ICU. The victim’s face was clearly visible in the video and had not been blurred before being posted on social media.
Apart from these individuals, media organisations like The Times of India, News18, Dainik Jagran, TV9Bharatvarsh.com and India.com have also revealed the victim’s identity while posting web stories on the hashtag.
A Bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta laid down in their judgement that: “No person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media, etc. the name of the victim or even ina remote manner disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large.”
The judgement justifies their stand by elaborating how a victim of a sexual assault, especially rape, is often treated as an “untouchable” and “treated worse than the perpetrator of the crime”.
The Bench also said even for the sake of arousing emotion to rally against sexual offences, the face, name and identity of a victim cannot be used. “We are also of the considered view that it is not at all necessary to disclose the identity of the victim to arouse public opinion and sentiment. If a campaign has to be started to protect the rights of the victim and mobilise public opinion it can be done so without disclosing her identity.”
The apex court then laid down that under Section 228A any person who engages in the disclosure of the identity of a victim of sexual offences shall be punished with imprisonment that could extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine. Subsection 228A(2) elaborates that the offence will be held applicable even if the name of the victim is revealed with written permission from officer-in-charge or victim themselves. It is to be upheld regardless of whether the victim is dead, a minor or of “unsound mind”.
In 2019, the Delhi high court had fined 12 media houses for disclosing the name and other details of the Kathua gang rape victim.