Delhi HC Fines Media Houses For Revealing Kathua Rape Victim’s Identity

Leave a Comment

Let me start penning my thoughts by first and foremost pointing out on a bitter note that it is most shocking to learn that some of the leadingmedia houses in our country have grievously blundered in revealing the identity of theKathua minor rape victim which shook the entire world. This should never have happened at the first place. It is known very well that the identity of a rape victim is never disclosed under any circumstances.

It is to be noted that the Delhi High Court had on April 13 taken suo motu cognizance of the media houses disclosing the details of the gangrape victim. Among the prominent media houses who erred grievously in naming the rape victim include NDTV, India TV, Republic TV, The Week, First Post, Deccan Chronicle, The Navbharat Times, The Pioneer, The Indian Express, The Statesman, The Hindu, The Times Of India, IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd and apart from them even NCW, DCW, UOI and NCPCR also erred similarly. It is very rare to see so many prominent mediahouses among others getting caught on the wrong side of the law! 

As it turned out, the Delhi High Court took very strong exception to this disclosure of name of rape victim which is never disclosed in public. A Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar in the landmark order titled Court On Its Own Motion v Union of India and Ors while slapping the fine of Rs 10 lakh stressed that revealing the identity of rapevictim carries imprisonment. It should never be made public.

Needless to say, the identity of a rape victim cannot be disclosed and those guilty of doing so are liable to face punishment of up to two years under Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code. According to sub-section(1) of this Section: “Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known theidentity of any person against whom an offence under Section 376, Section 376A, Section 376B, Section 376C or Section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this Section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.” All media houses and all citizens of India must always next time be cautious of this and refrain from revealing the identity of the rape victim under any circumstances!

It also must be highlighted here that while taking suo motu cognizance of the publication of photographs and the name of the rape victim, the DelhiHigh Court said that under Section 23 (Procedure for media) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act any person who discloses the identity of a child victim could be sent to a minimum six months imprisonment. Many journalists even senior as also big media houses are completely ignorant of this provision which alone explains why many times we see such Himalayan blunder happening right under their very nose when the identity of the rape victim is disclosed without any fear of being prosecuted and being asked to pay huge fine or sent to jail! This alone explains why this must be advertised in the media as the Delhi High Court also in its landmark order underscored and which some big media houses who erred gave an undertaking also to do the same!

It is noteworthy that the Delhi High Court while not imposing any jail term asked all media houses which revealed the identity of the 8-year-old Kathuagangrape-cum-murder victim and to whom notices were issued to pay Rs 10 lakh fine each towards victim compensation fund maintained by the Jammu and Kashmir State Legal Services Authority for disbursement to victims/families of the deceased victims of sexual violence. The court will transfer the amount to it on receiving it. The next date of hearing in the case is 25 April.

Let me hasten to add here that the media houses on realizing their folly wasted no time in tendering their due apologies for making the victim’s identitypublic. The Delhi High Court noted their submission that, “The reporting in the print and electronic media enabling the identification of the eight-year old victim of gangrape and murder was on account of ignorance of the requirement of law and on a misconception that the reporting would facilitate the prosecution of the persons in right earnest.” At this, the court which was initially in favour of imposing a hefty penalty initially reduced it to Rs 10 lakh on each of the media house.

To be sure, the Delhi High Court was also assured by all the mediahouses that they will effect wide and continuous publicity of the laws on privacy of victims of sexual offences. The Delhi High Court Bench after taking suo motu cognizance of the media houses disclosing the details of the Kathua gangrape minor victim on April 13 had appointed senior advocate Arvind Nigam as amicus curiae while Centre was represented by Standing Counsel Monica Arora.

To put things in perspective, the Delhi High Court observed right at the beginning that, “An incident of an alleged gangrape and murder in the State of Jammu & Kashmir has made national headlines. Unfortunately, the nature and manner of reporting of the alleged offence is being effected in absolute violation of specific prohibition of law disrespecting the privacy of victim which is required to be maintained in respect of the identity of a victim. The victim in the case in question is stated to be a girl child who is only eight years of age”.

Going forward, the Delhi High Court also noted that, “These reports not only carry the photographs and name of the minor girl child victim, disclosing her complete identity but the manner and contents of reporting actually also does injustice to the privacy and dignity of the child victim. What is even more unfortunate is that such disclosure and publication of an image is being repeated by almost the entire media.” It also lamented that, “We are also pained by the fact that no authority including the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR); the National Commission for Women (NCW) or the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) have even reacted to this terrible development”. The Union of India through Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as well as the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the National Commission for Women and the DelhiCommission for Women shall stand impleaded as party respondent nos. 1 to 4 respectively. It also directed that, “The official respondents shall forthwith take steps to prohibit any disclosure of the name, address, photographs, family details, school details, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may have an effect of leading to the disclosure of the identity of the child victim, by any person(s) or authorities.” 

On a cautionary note, the Delhi High Court also held that, “The mediahas to be circumspect in reporting to the extent it is in contravention of the law. Freedom of the press has to be balanced with the integrity of the judicial process, and must comport with the requirements of the law. No violation is permissible.” It also directed that, “We hereby prohibit the media respondents from effecting any publication including the name, address, photographs, family details, school details, neighbourhood or any other particulars, which may have an effect of leading the disclosure of the identity of the child victim.” It is the bounden duty of the media to follow in totality what the Delhi High Court has said so categorically and convincingly!

Sure enough, media from now onwards will always be itself careful enough to not repeat what they did earlier which led Delhi High Court to act against them on its own motion and impose a fine of Rs 10 lakh on each of the mediahouses! It is in their own best interest. They can blithely afford to ignore it only at the cost of their own peril! 

Why talk about media alone? Even NCW, DCW and all other big organizations as well as all citizens must always abide by what the Delhi High Court has held in this landmark case and refrain from ever disclosing any information about therape victim in public. In no uncertain terms this landmark order of the Delhi High Court delivered by none other than the Acting Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Gita Mittal along with Justice C Hari Shankar needs to be not just applauded but always adhered to in letter and spirit by not just media groups alone to whom it is mainly directed but also by each and every citizen of India because the privacy of the rape victim has to be protected under all circumstances and this is exactly what loud and clear message theDelhi High Court has ought to send out by its landmark order!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh. 


8:15 PM (10 hours ago)

to Edupedia

Legal Article

Calcutta HC Lawyers Extending Ceasework Is Shocking

Let me begin at the very beginning by most poignantly pointing out that lawyers anywhere in any part of India don’t just enjoy going on strike. It is their own livelihood that suffers the most when they go on strike! It is only when they feel that it should be used as a last resort do they finally take the unpalatable decision of going on strike. Why does Centre allow the situation to drift to such an abysmal level that the lawyers are left with just no option but to go on strike?

It merits no reiteration that Kolkata High Court is the oldest High Court in India that was the first High Court of India and commands world wide respect for its members conducting themselves always with elegance which has few parallels! The capital of India in British era till 1911 was Calcutta and it was the place from where many eminent jurists came out and made a permanent niche for themselves by their exemplary performances! But now Calcutta High Court is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Nearly 10,000 lawyers of three lawyers association at the Calcutta High Court have been on over two months strike in protest against the severe shortage of Judges at the court.

As things stand, the lawyers associations at the Calcutta High Court on April 19 set a record for the longest strike in its history by extending it further. Compounding the plight of thousands of litigants, the Bar Association took a resolution to extend the ceasework till April 25 on the ground that the authorities concerned have not appointed any new Judge or a permanent Chief Justice to the High Court despite the two-month long agitation! The High Court at present has 33 Judges, even as the sanctioned strength is of 72 Judges.

Truth be told, the Calcutta High Court Bar Association President Uttam Majumdar said that with no tangible results despite the agitation, the ceasework has to be extended by another week. He said that, “With this extension, this will become the longest strike in the history of the Calcutta High Court. After today’s resolution, the extended period would cross the two-month mark.” The previous longest strike was of 2 months in 2002 to protest against hike in stamp duty by the West Bengal government. It was observed across all courts in the State.

Who is responsible for this deadlock? Centre! Who is ensuring that Judges vacancies are not filled up in Calcutta High Court? Centre! Who is ensuring that even if lawyers of Calcutta High Court go on strike, it has to be ensured that vacancies don’t get filled up? Again it is none other than the Centre itself!

It is most disconcerting to note that instead of its strength at 72 Judges, the Calcutta High Court has currently has only 33 Judges. Should we all be proud of it? Should Centre feel proud that it has ensured that more than half the vacancies about 39 are just lying vacant? Should all Indians feel excited about it?

As it turns out, Centre is always quick to say that the creation of a high court bench is a complex procedure which must involve recommendation of the concerned Chief Justice and then approval from State Government and then Centre can do something! Centre always cites opposition from the lawyers of Allahabad High Court as reason behind not creating benches in West UP and other parts of the State! But what about appointing more Judges? Why more than half of the seats in Allahabad High Court keep lying vacant as has been seen in last so many years?

Definitely it is not Allahabad Bar which says that don’t fill up the vacancies! Tell me the name of one single lawyer of Allahabad High Court who does not want the appointment of more Judges! Allahabad High Court is the biggest High Court in India with maximum Judges post about 160 yet either half or more than half of the vacancies always keep lying vacant! Why? Why not even one seat of State Assembly or of Parliament ever lies vacant? Centre itself does not want to fill these vacancies for reasons known best to it which only contributes to further piling up of the pending cases! This is what is exactly happening even in Calcutta High Court!

Three Judges have retired in Calcutta High Court in February. But Centre is just not keen at all in appointing more Judges here and more than 2 lakh cases are pending before the High Court! What is Centre’s real intention? It must specify! It cannot keep quiet! How long will lawyers of Calcutta High Court keep striking? Why is no one concerned about it? Why no effort is being made to break the deadlock by either the Centre or the State Government of Bengal?

Why no news channel ever discusses it? Instead the senseless debates on Karni Sena etc occupy prime time shows! Shameful! Why no news channel ever bothers to highlight this in any of the prime shows? Why is strike not by district court lawyers but by high court lawyers and that too by lawyers of India’s oldest high court taken so lightly? Why are no questions asked by media to Centre on such a sensitive issue? Media too must self-introspect on why it has failed miserably in discharging its key job of highlighting strike by lawyers of Calcutta High Court since last more than two months!

It is with a very heavy heart that Uttam Majumdar who is President of Bar Association of Calcutta High Court lamented that we are compelled to extend this strike for more than two months! The Centre has failed to take any action to fill up the vacancies of Judges at the Calcutta High Court.” Centre is wholly responsible for this deadlock which was certainly avoidable! Centre cannot just keep on waxing eloquent and keep citing one excuse or the other for not appointing Judges in different High Courts all across the country!

Bluntly put: Why talk just about Calcutta High Court alone? Things in Odisha High Court are also pretty much the same! Even the lawyers here are also on strike since February 12 in protest against the shortage of Judges! Satyabrata Mohanty who is Secretary of Odisha High Court Bar Association said that, “Along with hunger strike, the ceasework agitation will also continue. Lawyers will boycott court proceedings till February 23.” The strike here also has been extending repeatedly! The Odisha High Court Bar Association has alleged that since 2015, there has been no appointment of Judges in Odisha High Court. There are only 16 Judges as against the sanctioned strength of 27 Judges!

Let me be direct in asking some straightforward questions: Why is Centre making a mockery of our legal system? Why are Judges not being appointed in all the High Courts where vacancies are pending and lying vacant? Why are lawyers of Calcutta High Court and Odisha High Court compelled to go on strike to ensure that Centre pays some attention on this pivotal issue also?

Can anyone explain: Why is Centre still so lackadaisical in its approach? Should we be proud of it? Why did Centre allow so many vacancies to be not filled up in time?

Can anyone also explain: Why is Centre not speaking up on such a serious issue? Why Centre is so casual in its approach? Centre has just no option but to act now and make its stand known to the people who are fed up by the Centre’s inaction on such a vital issue involving Judges who decide the fate of millions of litigants but whose posts are not being filled up by Centre!

Honestly speaking, I am myself shocked, disgusted and appalled to see how Centre is treating such a sensitive issue with such a complete sense of insensitivity! Centre must act now and address the legitimate grievances of the lawyers of Calcutta High Court and Odisha High Court as also of all those High Courts where vacancies similarly are lying vacant in large numbers! This must be done immediately on a war footing!

Needless to say, it is because of this complete insensitivity to judiciary that the former CJI TS Thakur was in tears while requesting the Centre to appoint more Judges in the country when he was in office as CJI! But still Centre has not relented so far and the status quo still continues most shamelessly! Allahabad High Court lawyers vociferously oppose more high court benches as most of them believe in “One State One High Court” but do they oppose appointment of more Judges in the High Court? Certainly not! Then why can’t Centre appoint more Judges in the High Court so that cases are decided in time? Just planting judicial clock will serve no purpose at all unless more Judges are appointed to decide the cases!

Let me be direct in asking: Why is Centre taking the whole judicial system for a ride? Why can’t more able and competent lawyers be appointed as Judges of different High Courts so that the lawyers like those of Calcutta and Odisha end their long strike and the litigants also get justice and not suffer incessantly for no fault of theirs? Why Centre does not want that cases should be decided on time which is impossible unless and until more Judges are appointed? Even now it is not too late. Centre must make an earnest bid to fill up all the vacant posts lying in various High Courts so that cases are decided in time and the ceasework is brought to an end! It is high time and now even the Bar Council of India too must step in promptly and make an earnest effort in this direction to resolve this unending crisis which is threatening to tear apart the very fabric of our judicial system! It is the crying need of the hour also! Let’s hope so earnestly! 

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate, 

s/o Col BPS Sirohi, 

A 82, Defence Enclave, 

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera, 

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.
Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home