NEW DELHI: Expressing anguish over rape victims being treated as ‘untouchables’ in society, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that names and identities of victims of sexual assault should not be disclosed or revealed by police, courts or media houses.
A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta ruled against any disclosure of the identity of victims and barred the media from revealing the same even in cases where the victim has died, is of unsound mind and the parents have consented to such disclosure.
“Unfortunately, in our society, the victim of a sexual offence, especially a victim of rape, is treated worse than the perpetrator of the crime…society, instead of empathising with the victim, starts treating her as an untouchable. A victim of rape is treated like a pariah and is ostracised from society,” the bench observed.
Taking a grim view of the ordeal a sexual assault victim is subjected to in court, the bench said: “The victim’s first brush with justice is an unpleasant one where she is made to feel that she is at fault; she is the cause of the crime.
Victims are subjected to harsh cross-examination during which a lot of questions are raised about her morals and character and the judges sometimes sit like mute spectators and normally do not prevent the defence from asking such defamatory and unnecessary questions.”
The court said that despite efforts made to sensitise the courts, they reveal the victim’s identity in many cases. The police and forensic authorities have also been barred from disclosing the identity, even after parental nod. Putting FIRs on rape and those filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, in the public domain also stands prohibited.
The directive on the protection of the victim’s identity also extends to social media posts.
The court has called for one-stop centres to be set up in each district to deal with the rehabilitation of victims. These centres will have to be equipped with appropriately trained and sensitised staff, psychologists and counsellors.
The court said nobody can have an objection if the victim discloses her identity as long as she is a major and has taken the decision regarding voluntarily
The court said in cases where the victim is dead or of unsound mind, her name and identity should not be disclosed even with authorisation from kin
The Supreme Court has called for one-stop centres to be set up in each district to deal with the rehabilitation of victims